Performace-based funding debate returns to capitol

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, testifies before the Senate Education Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Colleges' and universities' requests for more money would be weighed against performance standards under a bill a state senate committee debated Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, would tie 90 percent of new money allocated for higher education to a set of performance criteria devised by the Department of Higher Education. It's a narrower version of a bill that passed the senate last year but had not reached the house when the session ended. The new measure applies only to Missouri's public four-year institutions.

Testifying before the Senate Education Committee Wednesday afternoon, Pearce said the performance standards would not kick in if schools had to endure cuts to their funding.

Under the proposal, higher education institutions would have to adhere to a set of performance measures developed by the Council on Public Higher Education. Linn State Technical College would monitor its three-year graduation rate and sophomore retention, job placement within 6 months of graduation and improvements on assessments in its major fields or licensure tests. Four-year institutions like Lincoln University and the University of Missouri would measure sophomore retention, degrees awarded, test scores and how they use the state's money. In addition, each four-year institution would create a measure specific to that school. The council's executive director, Paul Wagner, told reporters those criteria would have to be flexible.

"If a school has been improving on one performance measure for several years, it might be time to switch to something else," he said.

Wagner said after negotiations this summer, all of Missouri's public universities supported Pearce's bill. The bill also appeared to have the support of at least one Democratic committee member. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, whose district includes the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told KRCG 13, "As long as my constituents are happy, I have no problem with it."