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Universities torn on funding tied to graduation rates

Dan Branch, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, is moving forward on his bill that would tie up to a quarter of state funding for colleges and universities to graduation rates, although some universities are expressing concern behind closed doors.

Branch, R-Dallas, held a press conference Wednesday morning with Bill Hammond, president of Texas Business Association, hoping to build momentum for HB 25. Branch said the state has put too much emphasis on enrollment numbers and not enough on completion rates.

“The biggest need in higher education is that we need more graduates, more folks with credentials,” Branch said. “We need to do a better job of organically creating graduates in this state.”

Most community colleges and universities, including the University of Texas system, are supportive of the legislation, Branch noted, including Texas State Technical College, which he said has offered to tie all its state funding to outcomes.

However, Branch also said that some universities have been hesitant about the legislation, partly because they potentially will lose state funding as a result. He did not provide names of specific schools when asked.

“We need to identify where the tension seems to be,” Branch said. “Publicly, they are saying they’re for outcomes and, yet, they seem to be sending emissaries in to folks on subcommittees to try to put the brakes on things. I don’t know if its a negotiating strategy for more money. I hear that happens up here.”

Branch said he would work with schools that are worried about losing funding to find a fair approach.

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