Getting Results From Education

For many years, the name of the game for public colleges and universities has been FTE – that is, the number of “full-time equivalent” students they have enrolled. The larger the student body, the more money higher education institutions receive from their states.

Colleges and universities sharing the $2.4 billion a year handed out by the Ohio General Assembly are being asked if there is not a better way to allocate the funding. There is, of course. The question now is how to devise a formula reflecting higher education effectiveness rather than mere enrollment.

Earlier this year Gov. John Kasich informed officials of the state’s 37 public colleges and universities the pool of money available for capital improvements is limited, at $350 million. That may sound like a lot of money, but in the context of wish lists in the minds of many higher education officials, it won’t go far.

So the governor asked higher education officials to work together to write a priority list for state capital funding. Wonder of wonders, they were able to come up with a reasonable, coordinated proposal.

Now Kasich wants the higher education officials to do the same thing, in effect, for annual operating funds from the state. Instead of a formula reflecting primarily enrollment, he wants one that provides financial incentives for effectiveness.

Among guides to effectiveness favored by Kasich are graduation rates, student retention and whether colleges and universities are providing training that leads to good careers for graduates.

Some of the ivory tower mentality may not like the idea. Their definitions of effectiveness may differ from the governor’s.

Fine. Assuming they can provide reasonable justifications for their ideas, there should be room for flexibility.

In the end, however, the governor is right. Ohioans simply cannot afford to spend $2.4 billion a year on higher education without knowing the money is doing some good for the state’s economy and for students who attend public colleges and universities.