CGHE Seminar 11

Performance funding for higher education in the United States: origins, discontinuations, transformations

  • Kevin J. Dougherty, Columbia University and Birkbeck, University of London

First appearing in 1979, performance funding for higher education has been adopted by nearly four-fifths of all US states at one or another time. This has caused a revolution in how states – the main funding source for public higher education in the United States – finance their universities and community colleges.

Rather than relying on enrolment-based formulas or past spending with inflation correction, performance funding takes state funding in a very new direction. State appropriations for public higher education are now tied to a greater or lesser degree to performance metrics such as student retention, student progress in accruing credits, and student graduation.

For example, in leading states such as Ohio and Tennessee, 85 to 90 per cent of state appropriations for public higher education are tied to performance metrics, accounting for about a quarter of all institutional revenue.

This presentation addresses three conundrums about performance funding. Why has it been so widely accepted, even by higher educational institutions? Why despite this wide acceptance, do states frequently discontinue performance funding, if only for a while? Given this history of frequent discontinuations, what is the likely future of performance funding – continued growth, stagnation or decline, or transformation? To answer these questions, this presentation draws on extensive qualitative and quantitative research on US performance funding.

Download the presentation

Kevin J. Dougherty

Kevin J. Dougherty

Kevin J. Dougherty is Associate Professor of Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. He received his doctorate in sociology from Harvard University in 1983. He has published widely on performance funding for higher education, the origins and impacts of community colleges, and public policies affecting access to and success in universities and community colleges. As a Fulbright Scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, in spring 2016, he is examining UK policies affecting student access to and success in higher and further education, with a focus on policies addressing social class, race-ethnic, and gender disparities in the amount and quality of student information about education opportunities.

Other upcoming events