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New formula would tie college funds to graduation rates
Deals plan creates incentive-based formula connected to student progress
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A new formula to determine how much state funding Georgia’s public colleges and universities receive will be based heavily on student progress and graduation rates.

The Higher Education Funding Commission, a group appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, approved the framework for the incentive-based formula Wednesday.

Under the new plan, each school will be given an initial base from which to work, and funding will depend primarily on the number of students who earn degrees or certificates and their progress toward that goal.

The new formula will differ from the current system for funding, which relies mainly on enrollment and how many credit hours students take.

Deal has asked all participating schools in the university and technical college systems to devise detailed plans on how they will help more students graduate.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done,” said John Millsaps, Board of Regents spokesperson with the University System of Georgia. “This will be a significant change in terms of the model that funds public colleges and universities in Georgia.”

Based on the framework, students’ class standing in school will determine how much they will receive, to an extent. For example, freshmen will earn less than sophomores, and sophomores will receive less than juniors.

Funding will also be sector-based. Different scales will be used for varying types of schools, including technical colleges, state and two-year colleges, regional and state universities and research universities.

Although the formula won’t go into effect for a couple of years, the hope is for the system to support Deal’s “Complete College Georgia” initiative that aims to increase graduation rates for students seeking higher education.

According to the governor’s office, the goal is to have at least 250,000 more college graduates by 2020, when it is believed 60 percent of Georgia jobs would require employees to have some form of higher education.

“The idea is to tie funding in some level into performance. As to how that’s going to play out for individual institutions, it’s impossible to speculate right now,” Millsaps said.

Deal and others have commented that Georgia’s economic future is dependent on colleges sending more skilled employees into the workforce to attract and keep employers. He believes the new formula will be a step in the right direction.

While some have expressed fears that an incentive formula based on graduation rates might lead to grade inflation, Millsaps believes Deal’s commission is well aware of the need to maintain the quality of higher education while seeking to further the governor’s initiative.

“I think the commission is very aware of the need to maintain academic quality because that’s what’s going to serve students best, so that’s obviously going to be an area of focus,” he said. “How does the formula best serve the state, and also what mechanisms are in place to maintain academic quality? Whatever final form this formula takes, one of the benefits will be to align more closely with that work and providing some kind of financial connection to the goals of that initiative.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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