Appropriations and Allocation Formulas Key Factors in Higher Education Outcomes, Study Reveals


A recent peer-reviewed study published in Educational Researcher suggests that state funding mechanisms for higher education have limited influence on enrollment or student outcomes at public institutions. Instead, researchers argue that the clarity, consistency, and overall amount of appropriations play a more significant role in shaping outcomes.

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / w_lemay)

Insights from the Study

Led by Robert Kelchen, head of the educational leadership and policy studies department at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the study offers a comprehensive analysis of various funding models and their impact on student enrollment, completion, and post-graduation outcomes. Unlike previous research, which primarily focused on enrollment- or performance-based funding, this study includes traditional base-adjusted models and hybrid models.

The research, based on data from 2004 to 2020, examines over 3,500 artifacts, including state budgets, legislation, and board meeting packets, from 576 four-year and 1,098 two-year institutions across all 50 states. The findings challenge the prevailing notion that incentive-based funding models significantly improve student outcomes, particularly completion rates.

According to Dominique Baker, an associate professor at the University of Delaware and co-author of the report, the study suggests that incentive and hybrid funding models have limited efficacy in achieving their intended goals. Baker emphasizes the need to reconsider the emphasis on incentive-based funding and explore alternative approaches that prioritize equity and student success.

READ ALSO: Kentucky's Performance-Based Higher Ed Funding Deemed Unconstitutional by State Attorney General

Implications and Recommendations

While the study underscores the importance of adequate funding for higher education, it also highlights the need for clarity and consistency in funding mechanisms. Robert Kelchen emphasizes the importance of prioritizing increased funding, citing research that correlates higher funding levels with positive college outcomes. However, he acknowledges the challenges associated with securing additional funding, particularly during periods of economic constraints.

Moving forward, the study recommends adopting funding formulas that provide stability and predictability for colleges and universities. By committing to a consistent funding model over an extended period, institutions can better understand the expectations for improvement and allocate resources accordingly. Additionally, policymakers are urged to consider the equity implications of funding decisions, ensuring that underserved students and institutions receive adequate support.

Looking Ahead

While no single funding model has emerged as a clear solution, experts point to ongoing innovations, such as Illinois' exploration of adjusted appropriations to support underserved students and institutions. The study encourages policymakers to prioritize equity in funding allocation and to explore alternative models that prioritize efficiency and fairness.

Ultimately, the study underscores the complex relationship between funding models and student outcomes in higher education. By focusing on clarity, consistency, and equity in funding mechanisms, policymakers can better support student success and promote greater access and affordability in higher education. As states continue to grapple with funding decisions, evidence-based research will play a crucial role in shaping future policies and practices.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hybrid State Funding Model Bolsters Community College Enrollment

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