April 24th saw a flurry of activity for higher ed in Sacramento. In the morning, Senator Steinberg faced an onslaught of criticism for his online education bill. Students, faculty, and unions have successfully forced the leader of the state senate to rewrite his legislation so that it now only sets a goal rather than requires an online version of the 50 most impacted courses in the three higher ed segments. Moreover, Steinberg has backed off his insistence that the systems use public-private partnerships to develop these online courses, and he has inserted language stating that no public money will go to the private side of a public-private partnerships. While the devil will be in the details, the bill has been pulled back and will be re-introduced next week.
Meanwhile, the governor has released his long-awaited accountability framework for higher education. The essential part of this new funding model for higher education is the following: “Up to a 20% increase in General Fund appropriations to UC and CSU over a four-year period (2013-14 through 2016-17), representing about a 10% increase in total operating funds. Freeze on UC and CSU resident tuition from 2013-14 to 2016-17. If a segment raises tuition during any of those years, its cumulative funding augmentation beginning in 2013-14 will be forfeited and cannot be earned back. For UC and CSU, funding augmentations will be contingent on progress made toward the following goals. (Note: the latest values for the performance measures will be updated this fall to reflect actual 2011-12 values, which will serve as the base year): Ten percent improvement of on-time graduation rates by 2016-17 (meaning 4 years for freshmen and 2 years for transfer students). Ten percent increase in the number of degrees completed by 2016-17 for: First-time freshmen, Transfer students, Pell Grant recipients (both freshmen and transfers). Ten percent improvement in undergraduate degree completions per 100 full- time equivalent enrolled students by 2016-17, to capture improvements in efficiency.” Essentially, the governor wants the universities to freeze tuition, increase the number of transfer and Pell grant students, and move everyone through the systems in a reduced time.
Governor Brown has added these further qualifications to his plan: “If a segment partially meets its targets, it will still receive a proportional share of its planned funding augmentation. Additionally, segments can recoup any funding lost by missing an interim target if they fully meet a subsequent year’s target, up through 2016-17. Segments will be expected to show 1%, 3%, and 6% improvement on each of the outcome measures in the first three years of the plan, respectively, or the segments may propose alternative interim measures and targets provided they can show those interim measures build to the same overall 10% targets in 2016-17. Universities will report annually on progress made toward the targets, biennially on spending on graduate versus undergraduate instruction and research, and on any additional measures that are deemed appropriate for tracking effects on educational quality and service to disadvantaged students.” This push for a more efficient system is thus coupled with a requirement for more budgetary transparency.
The full details of this plan should be outlined in the governor’s May Revise budget. It will be interested to see how the UC system reacts to this new emphasis on undergraduate education.