For an institution that receives the lowest state appropriations in the state, Western may be looking forward to a change of pace.
During a speech to administrators of Missouri colleges and universities, Gov. Jay Nixon presented a new funding model for higher education.
The model will be based on performance versus what the Gov. has deemed as “crisis driven” funding. Missouri Western administrators remain skeptical since details of how the model will operate have yet to be ironed out.
Western President Dr. Robert Vartabedian hopes that the new model will allow for more fair funding, which he believes has not been the case for Western recently.
“What I’ve argued all along is that we’re all for accountability,” Vartabiedian said. “We’re all for fair funding as long as it’s not more unfair funding which is what we’ve been subjected to in the past.”
The new model will set four state wide goals for each university to meet. While these goals are still being discussed, Vartabedian believes that it is likely that they will be based on graduation and retention rates.
Alongside the four state wide goals, each university will be able to set a specific goal for themselves.
Associate Provost Cynthia Heider said that before Western administrators can make any decisions on what the university’s goal is, the four state wide goals must be set in place.
“We already work on things like encouraging students to complete their degrees,” Heider said. “So, degree attainment is important. Not just for the student but for the region.”
Vartabedian said that there are two possibilities for Western that come to his mind for specific institution goals.
“Our unique outcomes of Missouri Western would be the graduation rate of first generation college students,” Vartabedian said. “I think another one that would be interesting, if we could quantify it, would be how effective we are at workforce development, in terms of graduating students who are well prepared and find jobs quickly.”
During Nixon’s speech, he said that all the goals should be quantifiable and easy to track. As far as when the tracking will begin, the 2012-2013 fiscal year will serve as a base line for all of Missouri’s schools. From her understanding, Heider said that the baseline funding is the lowest that an institution could receive. For additional funding, intuitions would have to meet or go beyond the goals.
“We haven’t seen all those details,” Heider said. “A lot of that hasn’t been flushed out.”
Currently, Western receives that lowest state funding than any other four year school in Missouri. In comparison to other open enrollment schools, Western graduation rates are the highest. In 2009 the Missouri Department of Higher education reported that open enrollment Harris Stowe State University graduated 18.9 percent of its students. The MDHE also reported that year that Western graduated 34 percent of its students.
In a news release, Nixon announced that a task force has been assembled to work on the details of the performance based model.
“This will move us away from a system of spending money based solely on what an institution has received in the past, to a system where we invest money in those institutions that are meeting their goals and whose students are reaching their potential,” Nixon said in his news release.
While Western does not have a representative on the task force, President of Northwest State University John Jasinski, is part of the task force.
Despite a lack of details, Vartabedian is optimistic about the new model and doubts that the new model will hurt Western, but realizes that challenges lie ahead.
“We’re starting this performance funding model so far behind everyone else,” Vartabedian said. “It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge for us.”