Bredesen wants to tie college funding to graduation rates

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 2:54pm

State lawmakers moved into phase two of the special session on education reform Tuesday, taking up Gov. Phil Bredesen’s legislation to ensure more Tennesseans graduate from college.

Only 44 percent of students enrolled at four-year state schools eventually get degrees — only 12 percent at community colleges — and the governor favors fixing this problem by tying state funds to graduation rates. State higher education money now is doled out based on the size of an institution’s enrollment.

“We're going to put the money, as I think the taxpayers would expect us to do, with the organizations that are trying to get things done, which is to graduate the students,” Bredesen said.

The legislature finished the first week of the special session Friday night by mandating the use of student test scores in deciding whether public schoolteachers are given tenure after their first three years on the job and in annual evaluations of teachers and principals.

That enabled the governor to strengthen the state’s application for $485 million in President Barack Obama’s signature education program — the Race to the Top initiative. A competition for grant money, the program is aimed at spurring states to enact reforms. The deadline for entries in the contest was Tuesday, and 40 states asked for shares of $4 billion. Obama said Tuesday he will ask lawmakers for an additional $1.3 billion for the program.

Now, lawmakers will focus on higher education reforms in the special session. Bredesen wants to delegate remedial coursework to two-year schools and make it easier to transfer credits from community colleges to four-year schools.

He also proposes to bolster the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory by spending $6 million to improve the school’s research programs in science, technology, engineering and math.

But the main reform is changing the state higher education funding formula to emphasize graduation rates.

Bredesen said he’s looking to phase in the changes to give institutions time to adapt, and he doesn’t expect any school to go out of business for failing to keep up.

“I think there probably would always be a safety net that they don't absolutely fail, but I can easily imagine some institutions becoming smaller than they are today. Or probably more likely they'll find a new president who will do the job in the institution. We spend a lot of money on higher education in this state and we ought to be putting it to the best effect.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: Magnum on 1/19/10 at 2:27

Once universities start pushing people through to pump up graduation rates and state funding, college degrees will be as worthless as a high school diploma is today (in most industries/careers that is). I'm sure there is already some pressure to do this for tuition revenue, and one can already see companies moving towards post-graduate degree requirements for lower level jobs. Looks like the responsibility for using state funding responsibly should fall on the students' who receive the millions of $'s in grants, scholarships, etc. I wonder how graduation rates have been affected by the lottery scholarships.

By: idgaf on 1/19/10 at 11:33

"and the governor favors fixing this problem by tying state funds to graduation rates. "

Your right Magnum they will just dumb down education even more, its the liberal way.

This State has to many State istitutions of indoctranation. We should sell off a few.

By: sidneyames on 1/20/10 at 8:48

Sounds almost as dumb as tying in student's progress with a teacher's rating. My teachers were great. It was my home life in dissaray that killed my study habits. You know, things like drunk daddy, daddy who didn't work, mother had to work and was gone to work a lot. Those things impact a kid's mind and grades. Guess the mayor of n'ville and gov. never really had to deal with adversity.

By: Dragon on 1/20/10 at 2:12

"I wonder how graduation rates have been affected by the lottery scholarships."

It was predicted that more students would start college but lose their scholarships after not being able to make the transition. Thus, graduation rates would decline.

Now, faced with that decline in graduation rate, the governor wants to "encourage" schools to graduate more or lose funding. I thought the liberal thought process would be that low graduating colleges need MORE money to make things better.

By: fightcrib on 1/20/10 at 4:53

Unniversity of Tenn athletes have very, very poor graduation rates. Seems like more UT athletes get arrested than graduate.

Fightcrib, BNA

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