Performance measures to guide state funding
By Catherine Doss
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 25 - March 26, 1998
It all comes down to accountability. In an era when more and more businesses and organizations are operating by performance standards, it is not surprising that state agencies have also been mandated to report certain measures of quality and performance.
For Virginia institutions of higher education, that reporting structure has taken the form of core-performance measures that were mandated for the first time by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) last fall. A listing of the seven measures for four-year state doctoral institutions appears below, with an eighth additional measure for Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station.
When Virginia Tech submitted its first set of performance measures, little did it realize how important these numbers would become. One of the last things former Governor George Allen did before leaving office in January was to allocate approximately $50 million in base funding to state colleges and universities based on their core-performance scores.
For Virginia Tech, this meant a significant $8 million in new money distributed over a two-year period. Although at this time it appears that core performance is unlikely to occur in the current biennium, one thing is certain: performance funding is here to stay.
"This is not another fly-by-night reporting mechanism mandated by the state," said Dixon Hanna, interim vice provost for outreach. "We had better take it seriously. All indications are that this is the process by which Virginia colleges and universities will compete for limited future resources."
The State Department of Planning and Budget began requiring an accountability vehicle as part of every state agency's budget process in the early 1990s. The vehicle for colleges and universities was among the last to be implemented. Discussions for core-performance measures for higher education began in 1995, and with input from each institution, were refined to their current structure last year. Each measure carries with it a baseline, interim, and target goal for the next two-year budget cycle. A number of states have already adopted a similar accountability structure for higher education.
"By linking higher-education funding to performance, Governor Allen showed his commitment to Virginia's higher-education system, to the taxpayers, and the students of Virginia who are concerned about the quality of their public institutions," said Peggy S. Meszaros, senior vice president and provost. Most of the measures are evaluated using each Virginia institution's performance relative to the performance of the institutions in its national peer group.
Virginia Tech fared well in the first round of proposed funding. Among six doctoral institutions, Virginia Tech and George Mason University were both slated to receive approximately $8 million; Virginia Commonwealth University, $6.7 million; the University of Virginia, $5.5 million; Old Dominion University, $4.2 million; and the College of William and Mary, $1.8 million.
"The core-performance indicators, as they are structured now, did not require Virginia Tech to submit anything that it doesn't already report to SCHEV," Hanna said. "What we're doing now that the first round has been submitted is analyzing the formula for funding distribution to see which measures carry the most weight to secure us the best possible funding chances in the future."
Hanna said most legislators are supportive of the core-performance concept.
"It really makes their job easier in terms of allocating money for higher education," he said. "It takes the political burden off them and places a more objective accountability burden on each institution."
A complete listing of the core-performance measures and Virginia Tech's baseline, interim, and target measures appears in the university's Academic Agenda document. For a copy of the document, call the Provost's Office at 1-6123 or visit the provost web site at http://ate.cc.vt.edu/PROVOST/provost.html.
Core Performance Measures for Virginia Institutions of Higher Education
Employment Rates: The percentage of graduates who are employed in program-related work, are pursuing further study, or identify their program of study as having contributed significantly to their functioning as workers and citizens.
Transfer Rates: The number of full- and part-time students transferring from community colleges and Richard Bland College.
Graduation, Progression, Retention, and Persistence Rates: Reflects graduation in six years within an institution; students returning to the same institution at a higher, program-placed level; students returning to the same institution but not progressing to higher, program-placed level; and students returning to the same institution regardless of their program-placed level.
Academic Expenditure Rates: Dollars expended on instruction, libraries, and academic computing as a percentage of total educational and general expenditures.
Classroom Utilization: Performance for classroom and laboratory space utilization calculated by weekly hours of room use multiplied by the percentage of workstations used.
Faculty Productivity: Undergraduate-student credit hours per full-time equivalent faculty; graduate-student credit hours per full-time equivalent faculty; total student credit hours per full-time equivalent faculty; and research and public service expenditures per full-time faculty.
Management Rates: Percentage of management standards (as reported by the state comptroller) successfully met.
Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station (CE/AES): Contribution to the total value of farm income in Virginia due to agricultural research and Extension; number of customers directly served per FTE Extension agent; expenditures for administration as a percentage of total CE/AES expenditures; agricultural program expenditures as a percentage of total CE/AES expenditures; and non-general fund revenues as a percent of total CE/AES revenues.