Pennsylvania Considers Tying State Funds to Colleges' Performance

November 15, 2012

Pennsylvania is the latest of many states to consider tying state appropriations for higher education to measures of colleges' performance, such as graduation rates.

The plan to link state money to specific outcomes was one of the recommendations released on Thursday by Gov. Thomas Corbett's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education. The commission has proposed a $256-million fund that would be allocated to colleges that met certain goals of increasing access and affordability. The money would be on top of the state's $1.67-billion higher-education budget, which would continue to base funds for colleges on their enrollment.

The performance-based fund, one of 19 main recommendations from the commission, would inject money into a higher-education system that has seen steep cuts in state appropriations, including those proposed by Governor Corbett, a Republican, since he took office, in 2011.

It is not yet known whether the recommendations will be carried out, as some may require legislation to go forward. If the performance-based fund were established, colleges would be evaluated with "scorecards," and possible measurements would look at an institution's tuition growth, enrollment of traditionally underserved populations, and programmatic alignment with its region's work-force needs. The governor has not yet officially endorsed the recommendations.

"I think the initial broad outline for the Pennsylvania performance-funding proposal is generally sound," said Daniel J. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "The institutions will be incentivized with new state moneys, and not dollars that are currently in the base budget, which have been cut considerably in the past couple of years."