Performance funding formula sparks concern

Funding formula crafts incentive for completion

By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

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The sweeping change to how California community colleges are funded is set to roll out over the next three years and is being met with widespread criticism.
In June, a new budget formula was finalized that will mark a shift away from the typical enrollment-based formula to a three-pronged approach that includes enrollment, degree and certificate completion and enrollment of low-income students.
The new changes were implemented to align with the goals of the Board of Governor’s Vision for Success initiative.
According to a press release in 2017, the Vision for Success’ goals are to increase the number of students transferring to CSUs and UCs, raise completions of career education programs and increase the number of students that complete certificates — all by 2022.
According to the Governor’s Budget Summary for 2018-19, the new formula is intended to give colleges incentive to focus more on student success by promoting timely completion and better serving underrepresented students.
This is being done in an effort to reduce the achievement gap by 40 percent within 10 years.
The achievement gap measures differences in student success between white students and black and Hispanic students.
Executive Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Gene Huff said the new formula has not been well received by California community college leaders and business officers.
“The formula was implemented too quickly. Putting together program changes to adjust to the new way of funding is difficult,” Huff said.
The funding formula is currently in effect with slight differences compared to how it will look in three years after the rollout is complete.
Currently, 70 percent of the budget is funded through Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTES). Twenty percent of the formula is based on the enrollment of low-income students.
Low-income students include students eligible for the Pell Grant or the California Promise Grant.
Ten percent is based on the student success initiative and over three years the number will jump to 20 percent of the budget.
Once that kicks in, 60 percent will then be determined by FTES and 20 percent based on the enrollment of low-income students.
According to the 2018-19 Funding Formula FAQ, the student success portion of the budget uses a point system that is based on a variety of metrics, including associate degree completion, 18+ unit certificates, transfer, transfer level math and English completion within one year and regional living wage attainment.
Each metric is weighted differently and the data used in the calculations is based on the prior academic year’s data.
Each metric is weighted with points that are associated with funding with one point translating to $876.
Associate degree for transfer has the highest weight with four points. A non-transferable associate degree is weighted at three points.
18+ unit certificates and transfer level math and English completion within the first year are worth two points. 9+ units career technical education completion and regional living wage attainment are worth one point.
Built into the formula is a three- year hold harmless provision for colleges that will have their funding reduced due to the new formula.
United Faculty Vice President Jeffrey Michels said colleges and teachers don’t need incentives to help students because they already want to help students.
“What are the behaviors they’re trying to incentivize?”
Huff and Michels both criticized the student success allocation because it doesn’t address or change the student behaviors that cause the equity gap.
Huff said, out of the approximately 50,000 students in the district, many do not take classes to complete a certificate or finish their certificate within a year.
“The formula rewards completions in the year and students that come from an underperforming high school will take some extra time,” he said.
Michels said Contra Costa College students face challenges of living in a high cost area that may take them away from school. Also, since the formula is based on completions, if students drop the college doesn’t get funded for their enrollment.
“Why do our students drop classes? Is it because teachers aren’t trying to do their jobs? Or because we have students trying to negotiate jobs and families and they come to school and have to drop out then come back,” Michels said.
Huff said he is in favor of colleges moving toward helping students complete in a timely manner, but tying a large portion of funding to it is a mistake.
Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said the administrators she talked to are fearful that the district will lose a lot of money.
Despite the potential for the district to lose money, Huff reassured educators that the district won’t start cutting courses and programs due to the shift.“The district isn’t going to run out of money. We’re looking at changes that will not harm students. We aren’t going to cut courses and the district isn’t going to run out of money,” Huff said. One adjustment Huff suggested was providing more 18-unit certificates that are stackable, so students can complete more than one within an academic year.  Chancellor Fred Wood said on Wednesday in Fireside Hall that he isn’t opposed to what Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley is trying to accomplish with the new formula, but the rollout is “too much — too fast.” “I have real concerns about this for our district, It’s inequitable. What we’re going to try to do is ask good questions of (Oakley) and work with lobbyists to adjust the formula,” Wood said.