Funding plan may boost college

From the The Brunswick News

A formula being considered for Georgia's colleges and universities that would allocate funding in part based on a school's performance could be a boon for small colleges like College of Coastal Georgia.

A draft of the plan, which would dramatically shift how colleges are funded, was finalized last week by Gov. Nathan Deal's Higher Education Funding Commission. If it is adopted for the 2015 fiscal year, the plan would give money to schools based largely on how well students progress through college and how many degrees are earned.

Valerie Hepburn, president of College of Coastal Georgia, said she likes the idea because it gives schools incentive to ensure students who start school actually finish.

"There is no value to letting people in the front door if we can't get them out the back door," Hepburn said.

Improving college completion rates in Georgia will be crucial to meeting the call from Deal for colleges to produce 250,000 additional college graduates by 2020, Hepburn said. College graduation rates are being emphasized by the state because projections estimate about 60 percent of all jobs by the end of the decade will require education after high school, she added.

"College completion rates have not been what they should be," Hepburn said.

Changing that may take a move like tying funding to performance, she said. As it is now, funding is primarily based on enrollment numbers, meaning the incentive is to attract more students first and to worry about how they fare second, Hepburn said.

College of Coastal Georgia has focused its efforts on ensuring students are successful and stay in school once they are enrolled, Hepburn said.

"For us at Coastal (the plan) is all good news," Hepburn said. "When you incent people financially to perform, they tend to do so."

Since making the transition to a four-year baccalaureate institution, Coastal Georgia has revamped its learning support program as part of Deal's Complete College Georgia initiative. That positions the college well for the shift, Hepburn said.

She will continue supporting the plan, which still has a way to go before it is finalized, as long it includes safeguards to keep schools from becoming diploma mills.

Hepburn is confident the proper measures will be in place to prevent that from happening because Georgia can take cues from other states that tie performance to funding in varying degrees like Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The commission writing the plan has until Dec. 31 to recommend a funding plan to Deal.

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Release Date: 11/7/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By MICHAEL HALL