By Anne Button
Colorado’s 2011 legislative session, which ended last week, saw the passage of two bills that are expected to impact Metro State and other higher education institutions in Colorado.
Higher ed master plan and performance-based funding
Senate Bill 11-052 directs the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) to develop a master plan for Colorado postsecondary education by September 2012, building on the recommendations of the governor’s task force for higher education, issued in November 2011. The bill lays out the goals for the master plan, which include increasing the number of postsecondary degrees in the state, reducing the educational attainment gap between majority and underrepresented populations, and improving the K-12 to postsecondary pipeline. The master plan is also to address how to meet the needs of low-income, underrepresented, or first-generation to college students.
In addition the bill requires the CCHE to negotiate individual performance contracts with each institution and to develop, by December 2013, a performance-based funding plan. In the plan, a portion of state funding for higher education (up to 25 percent) will be allocated to governing boards based on their respective institutions' success in meeting the expectations spelled out in their performance contracts. The performance-based funding would kick in beginning in the 2015-16 state fiscal year, but only if the general fund appropriation for higher education is at least $706 million. (The 2011-12 general fund appropriation was $519 million.)
As Metro State President Stephen Jordan told the Board of Trustees at the May 4 meeting, the bill is important to Metro State for two primary reasons.
First, Jordan said, it acknowledges “the importance of shifting demographics to the state of Colorado and how we better move those students through our K-12 system successfully into our postsecondary system and then out into the work force… Clearly, we are a very key player in that agenda.”
Second, Jordan said, the performance contract would focus on “issues like success in retention and graduation rates,” which Metro State sees as very important. What the bill does not address, said Jordan, is the funding issue. Jordan noted that Metro State has been successful in rebuilding its faculty base, but lacks the resources to provide the student support services that are essential to success in retention and graduation.
The bill passed both houses and now awaits Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature.
Financial flexibilityThe bill includes a streamlining of the approval process for cash-funded capital construction projects and an increase in flexibility to use surplus revenue for a broader array of items as allowed by current law. It also grants governing boards the authority to establish nonprofit entities without CCHE approval. The bill also includes a streamlined process for implementation of a guaranteed tuition program, where students lock in a tuition rate for four years.
Also awaiting the governor’s signature is House Bill 11-1301, which will give state colleges and universities greater autonomy in the use of student fees, personnel matters and construction projects, plus additional flexibility in other administrative areas.
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