The chair of Texas’ House Higher Education Committee explains his preference for outcomes-based funding.
At a Texas House Higher Education Committee hearing Friday, chairman Dan Branch (R-Dallas) reiterated support for university funding based on outcomes—such as degrees conferred—rather than enrollment.
Branch says moving toward outcomes-based funding is “self-evident” in light of plateauing enrollment across the state, and that he is open to as much as a quarter of a university’s funding to be outcomes-based.
That 25 percent figure is higher than previous estimates, including some by Gov. Rick Perry himself, which have suggested around 10 percent.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commissioner Raymund Paredes noted that slowing (and in some cases, declining) enrollment is partially caused by “apocalyptic accounts” of college costs. Texas students are paying an average of 55 percent more since the Legislature deregulated tuition in 2003.
Branch referred several times to moves made by Tennessee’s legislature and higher education board to tie funding to research, graduation, and degrees conferred, among other indicators. Tennessee’s plan is notable for weighting these factors differently for different institutions. This means the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the state’s flagship university, is judged with more consideration given to graduate degrees and research successes.
“One sizes fits all doesn’t fit this state,” said Aims McGuinness of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, referring to Texas. Much of the testimony at Friday’s hearing noted the diversity of higher education missions across the state.
The hearing also included testimony from Nelda Luce Blair of the University of Houston System, Elaine Mendoza of the Texas A&M University System, and UT chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who touted UT’s success in increasing enrollment. This year, UT-Austin enrolled a record number of freshmen—8,092—increasing overall enrollment by 2 percent. Chancellor Cigarroa called a focus on outcomes a “refinement” of the funding process.
Branch’s comments set the stage for a concerted push on outcomes-based funding in the upcoming legislative session. Branch’s Senate counterpart, Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), has also endorsed the concept of outcomes-based funding.
Top, photo by Marsha Miller. Courtesy The University of Texas at Austin. Bottom, courtesy Dan Branch.