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Mo. panel wants performance funding for colleges

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri colleges and universities could get extra money for improving graduation rates or meeting other performance criteria under recommendations released Thursday by a state task force.

The proposal presented to the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education suggests that Missouri should start awarding performance-based funding in the 2014 fiscal year. The money would be on top of an institution's base funding and would not exceed 2 or 3 percent of an institution's total state funding in any given year.

Although the state board accepted the recommendations, it will be up to lawmakers to decide whether to carry them out by allocating money in the state budget to fund them.

Missouri's colleges and universities have been hit by a series of budget cuts over the past decade, which the task force report said has resulted in "universally inadequate" funding for institutions. In the 2001 fiscal year, the state spent $920 million on higher education institutions, compared with $884 million in the 2011 budget, according to figures from the Department of Higher Education.

The 16-member task force, which was appointed by the state's higher education commissioner, recommended an increase in base funding for colleges and universities in addition to the new performance-based bonuses. Gov. Jay Nixon also has endorsed a funding model that rewards schools for meeting goals.

The task force recommended that each institution be judged on five criteria, which would vary by school.

For community colleges, the recommended criteria would include the number of students who complete a degree within three years or transfer to a university; the percentage of students taking remedial courses in English and math who then successfully complete their first college-level course in those subjects; the percentage of technical-track graduates who pass their required certification exams; and the number of credit hours delivered per $100,000 of state funding.

For public universities, the recommended criteria would include the number of freshman completing 24 credit hours or returning for their sophomore year; the increase in degrees awarded; improvements in education assessments or professional licensure tests; increases in the percentage of total expenses going toward the university's core mission, or success in holding down tuition increases; and an institution-specific goal approved by the state coordinating board.

If implemented, this would mark Missouri's second attempt at performance-based funding for public colleges and universities. A program called "Funding for Results" was launched in the 1994 fiscal year, but it fell by the wayside as state budget cuts began in the early 2000s.

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