By Brent Cooper & Greg Shumate
Imagine for a moment that you have a billion dollars to invest. Would you choose to invest in things that give you the best return on your investment? Of course you would.
And after a year passed, would you check on the status of your investment, and perhaps invest more in areas that were outperforming others? Again, of course.
After all, things change over time, and you want to direct resources to areas where you get the best outcomes.
Well, we don’t do that in Kentucky when it comes to postsecondary education funding. Many are surprised to learn that our lawmakers don’t consider outcomes – or any other objective factor – when cutting up the billion-dollar postsecondary funding pie.
That needs to change.
As business leaders, we understand the concept of “return on investment.” For Kentucky’s postsecondary education system, it is all “investment” that is not tied to an expectation of a “return.”
When business leaders speak with university officials from around the state, we are often told how many students are enrolled. The number of students enrolled is a helpful data point. But what we really care about is how many students are graduating each year. How many master’s degrees, bachelor degrees and associate degrees are being conferred?
We want to know how many trained engineers, health care professionals, and I.T. programmers will be available next year to help grow our collective economy.
We want graduates to be prepared with the talents that are critical in communities and the workplace: effective communication skills, problem solving capabilities, the ability to work collaboratively with a team, and the ability to relate to people from different backgrounds. These are the attributes that can only be achieved through higher education.
To achieve these outcomes, we believe a new system of allocating resources must be implemented. At its core, this new system should have an outcomes-based funding model.
Most successful businesses do this all the time. Regardless of their product or service, they find ways to incentivize desired behaviors. And they do it based on outcomes.
But regardless of how the pie is divided up, it is obvious that what we are doing today—continuing to make investments without looking at results—doesn’t make sense. And at a time when state resources have never been more limited, accountability on this investment should be expected.
Yes, we need to make education a top priority. Yes, we need to invest more in education across the board. But we also need to incentivize behaviors that achieve the best outcomes.
And in order to prepare for the transition to a new, outcomes-based funding model, the Governor and the General Assembly must immediately fix the existing funding disparities among the comprehensive universities. To level the playing field for Northern Kentucky University, that means an additional $10.7 million per year in state support, based on an objective calculation by the Council on Postsecondary Education.
We hope you will visit http://investinsuccessky.com and join us in asking Frankfort to fix the funding disparities that exist in education, and create a rational outcomes-based funding model for our future.
Businesses need it, and Kentucky taxpayers deserve it.
(Brent Cooper and Greg Shumate are Co-Chairs for the Northern Kentucky University Foundation Advocacy Committee. Brent Cooper is President of C Forward, an IT consulting firm. Greg Shumate is a Partner at Frost, Brown & Todd.)