Postsecondary education and credentials are key to economic mobility for individuals and economic competitiveness for our nation. Yet too many low-income adults and disadvantaged youth are locked out of the opportunity to earn credentials and are falling further and further behind. The Center advocates for better policies, more investment, and increased political will to address this national challenge. Learn more »

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Reengineer Education and Skill Development Systems: Federal, state, and local policies can help increase opportunity for low-income adults and disadvantaged youth by connecting education and training systems and funding innovative education and training strategies. Learn More »
Expand Student Financing and Supports: The nation needs robust student financing policies and student support services to ensure more low-income adults and disadvantaged youth complete postsecondary credentials. Learn More »
Increase Investment in Services and Capacity: States and communities can better serve more low-income youth and disadvantaged adults who seek postsecondary credentials by increasing investment in and coordination of funding for education and training. Learn More »
Strengthen Data and Accountability: Education and training systems should work together to better evaluate individual outcomes and improve services for low-income adults and disadvantaged youth. Learn More »

Feb 15, 2017  |  PERMALINK »

Wisconsin budget misses the mark on measures promoting equity in postsecondary performance funding

By Anna Cielinski

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s recently released 2017-19 budget calls for University of Wisconsin campuses to compete for $42.5 million in new funding based on performance measures. This adds Wisconsin to a growing list of states that are embarking on a postsecondary performance-based funding system.

State funding for public postsecondary institutions has traditionally been based on enrollment, but today more than two-thirds of states use or will soon use some form of outcomes-based funding (OBF) in four-year, two-year, and/or technical colleges. Outcomes-based funding rewards institutions for student outcomes, like student progress or completing degrees. With states’ greater focus on outcomes, CLASP is concerned—and some research has shown—that institutions may respond to these budgetary incentives by increasing selectivity to make achieving outcomes easier. This would make it more difficult for low-income, underprepared, minority, and adult students to access or complete postsecondary education and earn the credentials they need to succeed in today’s economy.

Wisconsin uses an OBF formula in its technical college system and this budget would create a new formula for University of Wisconsin campuses. Walker’s budget identifies six categories that institutions would be accountable for, which are further divided into 18 measures, one of which is the “low-income student graduation rate.”

CLASP is glad Wisconsin tried to include a measure that would not give negative incentives to enroll low-income students; however it should be a measure of the number of low-income student who graduate, not a rate. A rate can easily be gamed by decreasing the number of low-income students brought in to Universities, which is counter to the purpose of including such a measure. Some experts in Wisconsin are calling attention to this and other flaws in the plan, including that so many measures dilute the effect, rendering them not as meaningful as they could be. Future collaboration with the Board of Regents may lead to better and fewer measures.

Be on the lookout this month for a new CLASP paper, building on our previous work, about the importance of measures that promote equity in outcomes-based funding. Well-thought-out measures pay dividends both to the students who need education to succeed and to our nation’s economy that benefits from a stronger, better-prepared workforce.

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