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Texas Faculty Association hesitant to endorse bill to change university funding model

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By Mary Tuma | 05.11.11 | 5:48 pm

Texas House Bill 9, authored by House Higher Education chair state Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas), is coming under scrutiny by the Texas Faculty Association, a nearly three-decades-old nonprofit organization formed to protect the rights of higher education faculty and support staff.

Branch’s legislation would alter the way public colleges and universities receive state funding by factoring in degree completion rates, in addition to enrollment rates. The outcomes-based funding model accounts for annual increases in graduates, degrees awarded to at-risk students and those graduating in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The new model is cause for concern among the faculty association, who argue a graduation-rate focus could potentially limit enrollment to those students more likely to finish with a degree as well as force faculty to lessen the academic rigor of courses.

“The fear is that having a degree from a Texas public college or university will become worth far less than it is today,” the association wrote in a statement released today. The group considers responses to their concerns, such as the idea faculty will, by their own resolve, not compromise their standards and that the effectiveness of data-based assessment in preventing dilution of courses, “unrealistic” and “naïve.”

“The argument that funding can be set by graduation rate without diluting program quality is, we believe, based on unfounded assumptions at best. We should no more adopt such a process without evidence of safety and effectiveness than we would approve a dangerous drug,” they conclude.

The legislation, placed on calendar for Thursday, has five authors and was voted out of House Higher Education committee in an 8-1 vote. Branch’s bill aligns with legislative recommendations set forth by conservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation and by a specially formed committee with financial and professional ties to Gov. Rick Perry, The Texas Independent previously reported. The initial plan to base state funding on an “outcome-based” model was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in September.

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