Dot Physics

Performance Based Funding

The Louisiana Board of Regents is promoting a ‘performance-based’ funding model for the universities in the Louisiana system. In short, the funding each university will receive is based on:

  • The percent of students that graduate
  • Graduating more non-traditional students and minorities
  • Accepting and graduating more students that transfer from community colleges

Here is my main problem with this funding formula. Don’t we want to do these things anyway? Isn’t this suggesting that we are not trying to do these things and if we do try, we will get more funding. Actually, it is not about trying, it is about doing.

My fear is that institutions will move from trying to improving these things to making sure they improve. You know what I mean. There is a difference.

Fine, then what would I suggest for a funding model? How about the Board just evaluates each institution and determine how much funds they need? If they think an institution is doing something dumb, do something about it. I see this ‘numerical’ evaluation come up in different areas (well, I even do it). “I am sorry, your score on the test was 88.7 – that is a B” instead of “well, you don’t really understand momentum, so I am giving you a C”.

This idea also came up in a faculty meeting with a whole bunch of different departments. The topic of discussion was some type of entrance score to a graduate program. One faculty suggest that there not be a hard entry-level score on this test. Another faculty said “well, wouldn’t that be awfully subjective?” I think we should be subjective. We are the experts, not the test.


  1. #1 Dale Basler
    June 24, 2010

    Yes! I don’t know why teachers are so afraid of subjectivity. We’re trained to observe and evaluated yet so many teachers feel better when a robot-like test spits out the grade instead.

    Related-thought: I wonder if grading programs and automation has lead to this? Are we more disconnected from our students’ performance than our teachers were 30 years ago?

  2. #2 Anonymous Coward
    June 24, 2010

    1) Like Dale, I really like your last paragraph. I think people feel more comfortable hiding behind the “objectivity” of formula, but ultimately that formula will have some subjective cutoff point and incorporate a bunch of subjective grades: no one can reliably write a test of perfect difficulty.

    2) Regarding the priorities of The Louisiana Board of Regents, it’s sadly typical for regents that things like “learning” or “education” don’t show up on priority lists. At least in my state, very few of the regents seem to understand what the point of a university is.

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