In the near future, appeals from the state government for Colorado’s public university system to pay for more attention to completion and dropout rates will have a little more weight behind them. According to Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, the state is currently considering a brand new higher education funding system that will penalize schools and withdraw funding from those that fail to raise their graduation rates.
Prior to now, public universities in Colorado were funded with different formula that was based largely on enrollment numbers — and not on academic success. This week, the state Department of Higher Education will take the first step in changing all that when it releases a summary of expectations for each of the schools within the system by means of contracts that school administrators will be required to sign. Garcia, who manages the DHE, says that the contracts will require the schools to report metrics like graduation rates and student retention every year for the next five years, with the expectations those meeting targets set for them is going to be financially rewarded by an extra infusion of funds from the state.
Colorado is one of a handful of states attempting such an endeavor.
“We have to be thinking about a couple of things,” Garcia said. “How do we get more rural, low-income, minority students into higher ed, but more to the point, how do we enable them to graduate?”
The department won\’t be imposing the targets by fiat. Each set of metrics was created in cooperation using the schools themselves to make certain that the goals set are both reasonable and reachable. That\’s the reason while the DHE is looking on the schools to produce more graduates in STEM fields C something which is of the great concern towards the state’s economy C there’s no hard-and-fast numbers for the schools hitting. As Colorado School of Mines president Bill Scoggins explained, there’s no point in pushing the schools to do more work in that direction when they\’re already putting a strong concentrate on achieving that goal.
But at the same time, Scoggins said, Mines can probably do a better job creating partnerships with area vocational schools – something Adams already excels at.
Garcia said some schools have previously started to put in the work, pointing to the University of Colorado’s efforts to sign up and graduate more students of color and Metropolitan State University of Denver’s push to improve graduation rates.
He added the DHE is taking account to the fact that schools themselves are voluntarily embracing steps to make this a priority.
Yet for people who show that they are committed to striking the targets set out in the contract, there might be some financial benefit if an improvement within the state economy leads to an increase in revenues. Currently, Colorado is spending $545 million annually on higher ed, but should that number ever go above $706 million, up to a quarter of anything over $650 million is going to be allocated depending on how far the schools have come to reaching goals put down by the DHE contracts.