FTES-based funding process restricts economic elasticity

Governor discusses possible change in state funding

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

The way California community colleges receive funding could possibly change with a new funding formula proposal outlined in the 2018-19 California Community College budget and legislative request.

Currently, community colleges around the state receive 100 percent of their funding based on the number of Full Time Equivalent Students (FTES) registered each semester.

“There is $175 million in additional ongoing funds for a student focused funding formula that would replace, potentially, the current enrollment formula,” Contra Costa Community College District Chief Financial Officer Jonah Nicholas said at the Jan. 24 Governing Board meeting.

“We get paid for how many students we have in class and Governor Brown is looking for a change to incorporate some measures and metrics of student success,” he said, “as well as represent students who qualify for the Board of Governors Fee Waiver (BOG).”

With the new student focused formula, funds will be divided into a 50, 25, 25 percentage strategy.

Fifty percent of the funding would continue to come from FTES while another 25 percent would come from closing the equity gap.

This includes providing services for low-income students such as the Promise Innovation Grant, BOG and financial aid.

The remaining 25 percent would be outcome- and performance-based funding such as success rate, transfer rates and degrees offered and achieved.

“We’re not exactly sure how this is going to pan out. We’re kind of getting a range of possibilities for what this may mean for us,” Nicholas said. “We have very rudimentary information at this point, but we’re pegging $300 million at a lower end and $500 million at a higher end.”

With the budget and legislative proposal put forth by Gov. Brown, the Foundation for California Community Colleges under the direction of Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley released the Vision for Success on Sept. 18.

According to the document, the system’s budget request for 2018-19 totals approximately $382.5 million.

The document not only outlines the formula funding change but the strategies for improving all of California colleges’ ability to meet education and training needs.

“Gov. Brown is (proposing) funding in a crazy way that looks nothing like what we asked for,” United Faculty Vice President for Contra Costa College Jeffrey Michels said. “The budget took us by surprise.”

The Vision for Success highlights seven core commitments the California community college system should make to achieve these ambitious goals, while allocating funding per core commitment.

It includes $200 million for an increase by at least 20 percent the number of students annually who acquire associate degrees, certificates, or specific skill sets that prepare them for an in-demand job.

Seventy-five million dollars will go to full-time faculty hiring while $25 million will be allocated for part-time faculty hiring.

The goal of this funding is to increase the number of students transferring annually to a UC or CSU by 35 percent.

Other core commitments include $52.5 million to decrease the average number of units accumulated by students earning an associate degree, from approximately 87 total units to 79 total units.

Five million dollars is slated to reduce equity gaps across all of the above measures by 40 percent within five years and closing those achievement gaps for good within 10 years.

And it also includes $25 million to reduce regional achievement gaps, helping underrepresented students, across all of the above measures, with the ultimate goal of closing regional achievement gaps for good within 10 years.

“What’s most disparaging is that Gov. Brown’s proposal went without dialog from stakeholders,” Michels said. “There is a weakness in our system. Why does the government think they know better than the people who work in the field.”

Michels said more of an incentive should be placed on hiring full-time faculty, Disabled Students’ Programs and Services and CalWORKs personnel.

“We are pushing the district for more full- time employees and we hope we will have influence. Educators should be involved,” he said. “There’s a lot of time between now and final budget approval to meet with groups of faculty and staff to discuss our issues with the proposal.”