Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The public higher education funding model

  1. Are you Wyoming? If yes, double or triple your population before proceeding to step 2.
  2. Create a set of colleges, N>1, within a state.
  3. Arrange them hierarchically according to their selectivity, using the principal of a pyramid. A typical model would include one flagship, two doctoral-granting universities, at least three or four regional universities and an undergraduate-only college or two, and easily ten community colleges.
  4. Correlate funding inversely with acceptance rate. In other words, the flagships should get the most money per student.
  5. Notice that the bottom of the pyramid is having trouble doing more with less.
  6. Exacerbate the funding inequality further to punish them. Call it "performance funding."


Shennen Dean said...

Do you think this is because the well funded universities tend to be research institutions while the underfunded are teaching institutions?

turducken said...

I wasn't ignoring this, just thinking about it, and I'm not sure I have a good answer. There's something to that, but it's hard to tease out how much because of the way universities developed in the U.S. The well-funded flagship institutions are also the oldest and (for the most part) existed before there was such a thing as a "research university." So they had age and prestige before it became research-vs.-teaching. To the extent any of the teaching-intensive schools are old, they are formal normal schools - they weren't universities, nor did they offer a college degree - so they didn't become universities until after that distinction began to matter. And many, including all the community colleges, are much younger. It's worth noting that there are very elite, well-off private sector teaching-focused institutions.

In short, prestige correlates with age as much as mission.

The other factor I've seen mentioned is the legislators tend to be products of the flagships themselves.