A representative from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission came to campus recently to explain and answer questions about changes to how the state will appropriate funds across universities this academic year.
The switch from a funding formula based on enrollment to one based on outcomes was mandated by the Complete College Tennessee Act, which was passed in January 2010.
Funding is determined by student progression, as measured by credit hours; the number of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees awarded; research and grant funding; the number of students transferring out of Tennessee Tech University; number of degrees awarded per 100 full-time students; and graduation rates. A committee created the list of outcomes, using feedback and information from campus presidents.
Though the formula has already gone into effect for the current year’s funding, campuses will not see much change in their state appropriations as a result of the new formula.
“This year, there was no change in funding because of the new numbers; funding changed because of changes in state appropriations,” said Russ Deaton, associate executive director of fiscal affairs with the commission, in his presentation at TTU. “We’re talking tenths of a percent in changes because of the new model.”
Over the next 3 years, TTU’s funding from the new outcomes formula is projected to increase by $219,000. However, the removal of the hold harmless provision of the old enrollment formula has negatively impacted TTU. TTU will lose approximately $1 million of its funding over the next three years as a result of the hold harmless removal.
Deaton estimated that it will take two to three years before the model will begin to impact campus funding. By then, he said, individual campuses will have a better feel for how the model affects funding and what they can do to improve the outcomes themselves.
Each of the 10 outcomes that determine funding are given a different weight, based on input from the college’s president and its goals as set forth in the mission statement. The weights vary from campus to campus and are not set in stone.
“The things that you do well count where they did not count before,” Deaton said. “Everyone thinks that because they’re performing well now that it has a punitive effect. I don’t think that’s the case.”
“Everyone has room for improvement and I think everyone is facing the same problems,” he said.
The commission has instituted an annual review of the formula and its outcomes, which will allow the committee a chance to make sure that everything is working and make any necessary changes. The committee will also be monitoring student success rates in national exams to ensure that colleges to not reduce their requirements to improve graduation rates, for example.
“We were the first state to do this; we were totally on our own,” he said. “Because of that, we probably didn’t get everything right. That’s why we have the annual review to make sure everything is working right.”
The funding model is available at www.tn.gov/thec. Anyone can visit the website and adjust the variables to see how funding would change in different scenarios.