ProctorFree - Performance-Based Funding in Higher Education

Pat McCrory, newly elected Governor of North Carolina, made headlines this week when he slammed liberal arts colleges for, what he perceives as, not providing the same job opportunities as other technical colleges and universities. McCrory specifically mentioned gender studies, Swahili, and philosophy. His comments created a rash of negative publicity across the State, mostly from liberal arts colleges and programs that felt McCrory didn’t value their purpose. Most colleges believe that liberal arts programs foster critical thinking skills which technical programs don’t often do.

Just yesterday, McCrory expanded on his original thoughts and suggested he wants to change North Carolina’s educational funding system. Rather than pay schools for the number of students they enroll, McCrory wants to pay schools for performance. Schools will be measured on the number of students they graduate and how many find jobs after graduation. Colleges and universities are furious with McCrory’s statements and have expressed their concern for funding cuts. However; is a performance based system completely outrageous?

The conversation about moving colleges and universities to a performance-based system has been going on since colleges began struggling in the depressed economy.  In private sectors, performance-based systems are the norm.  Employees know that the better the business performs, the more likely they are to be rewarded.  On a grander scale, companies know that performance leads to growth. Tennessee has perfected the model of performance-based funding for higher education. Although it took some time to work out the kinks, the State now fully operates on performance-based funding for higher education institutions. So even though it may not be popular, we know it works.

Rightfully so, some believe that performance-based funding will push schools to pick and choose programs over others. Students will be pushed into programs that might not fit their academic and professional goals just because that school program has better graduation and job placement rates. And, under performing departments would lose vital funding for faculty, equipment, and innovation in a time where funding might help them grow.

With all of this in mind, do you think liberal arts programs will go anywhere? I went to a liberal arts school and I don’t imagine these schools going anywhere for a very long time. Cultural programs, languages, arts, and history are still a popular niche and will always be as Americans embrace our culture even more. Although liberal arts programs may not advance our nation as much as engineering or manufacturing, they are still vital for our country’s success as we become an even larger melting pot of cultures and languages.

What do you think of performance-based funding in higher education? Could it be the next revolution in education? Could it change our entire higher education system for the better?