Some schools resist link between funds, graduation rates

By Michael Brick
Associated Press

AUSTIN — The leader of a legislative effort to link higher education funds to graduation rates said Wednesday there seems to be some quiet resistance from major universities that have publicly endorsed the idea.

Republican Dan Branch of Dallas, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, told a news conference that while the major university systems have endorsed the idea publicly, “they seem to be sending emissaries in to the folks on subcommittees and trying to put the brakes on things.”

“We need to identify where the tension seems to be,” Branch said.

Under current policy, much of the funding for colleges is based on enrollment figures.

In 2011, Branch helped pass a law allowing the Legislature to base 10 percent of its higher education appropriations on graduation rates. But now he must persuade budget writers to follow that formula.

The state Higher Education Coordinating Board has endorsed the idea in a report to Branch’s committee.

University of Texas System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo issued a statement saying Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and the regents “are and have been supportive of the concept of outcomes-based funding for higher education, and specifically supported the recommendations that came from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s General Academic Formula Advisory Committee.”

A representative of the Texas A&M system did not respond to a request for comment.

About 25 states are discussing similar measures, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Complete College America.

Stan Jones, president of the group, called the 10 percent figure “a significant step.”

The Texas Association of Business also has endorsed the proposal, saying it would help the state produce a more modern workforce.

“There’s a lot of crawfishing going on the part of these four-year institutions,” said Bill Hammond, president of the association. Behind the scenes, he said, the major university systems have been angling for funding formulas that would more reliably preserve their current funding levels. He added, “They need to get on board.”

Branch already has filed legislation that would raise the figure, allowing future legislatures to connect 25 percent of higher education funding to graduation rates.