In 1997, at the urging of then Gov. Paul Patton, the General Assembly approved House Bill 1, which dramatically reformed Kentucky’s post-secondary education system.
Among other reforms, HB 1 unified community and technical schools into a single system, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System; created the innovative “Bucks for Brains” program that dramatically increased the number of endowed chairs and established a new Council on Post-Secondary Education to provide greater direction and oversight.
While not all of HB 1’s potential was achieved, the post-secondary system was unquestionably strengthened, and it remains one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in Kentucky in the past 50 years.
On a personal level, HB 1’s positive legacy pleases me because I, along with other alumni of the Governor’s Scholars Program, lobbied the legislature to. pass those reforms. I was a law student at the University of Kentucky, and for many of us it was our first foray into the public policy arena.
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In coming weeks, the General Assembly has the opportunity to pass the most important reform to our post-secondary system since HB 1 by adopting an outcomes-based funding formula. For too long, Kentucky has invested our post-secondary education dollars without regard to enrollment, performance, degrees obtained, in-demand degrees produced or any other rational or strategic criteria.
That changed last year when, with the support of Gov. Matt Bevin, the General Assembly called for 5 percent of the amount budgeted for the second year of the biennium to be distributed based upon performance goals and metrics.
This is not a new or untested concept. In fact, HB 1 originally called for performance bonuses for enrollment growth and retention, but those dwindled quickly. Over two-thirds of states have such a plan, are transitioning to one or are having formal discussions.
Last year, a working group of university presidents, legislators and staff from the governor’s office unanimously recommended an outcomes-based funding model for all four-year universities (other than Kentucky State). The model contains three components:
▪ Student success: 35 percent tied to degree production and progression toward a degree or credential.
▪ Course completion: 35 percent tied to the number of credit hours awarded at each campus.
▪ Operational support: 30 percent tied to campus services and infrastructure that support student learning and success.
The plan also addresses many of the concerns leveled against outcomes-based plans. For example, the recommendations account for different student populations by providing premiums for degrees earned by lower-income or minority students. They also call for student success to be measured by volume, as well as by efficiency, to make sure that large schools don’t receive disproportionate funding.
While the budget only calls for distribution of 5 percent of unding in this manner, the formula should eventually be applied to the entire post-secondary education budget. In fact, the working group has identified safeguards to help ease such a transition.
Given Kentucky’s fiscal challenges, we need to be sure that we are strategic with our investments. For too long, we have let politics govern the distribution of our post-secondary education funding.
Fortunately, we now have a funding model that is both strategic and fair to our universities, our students and our taxpayers. Contact your representative and senator and ask them to support the working group recommendations for outcomes-based post-secondary funding in Senate Bill 153, sponsored by Sen. David Givens.
Trey Grayson is president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and served as secretary of state 2004-11.