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Increased Pension Funding Comes at Expense of Higher Education

Public higher education is paying the price for rising state pension costs, which are contributing to the disinvestment of public universities and colleges, says a new report from think tank The Manhattan Institute.

“Ever-rising pensions and ever-depleting funding for higher education are inextricably linked,” said the report.

The report found that between 2008 and 2015, total state pension expenditures (and liabilities) increased by an average of 61%, while states decreased per-student higher-education spending by an average of 22.4%. It added that state funding for higher education is nearly $10 billion below what it was in 2008, when adjusted for inflation.

It also said that from 2000 to 2016, public universities lost 25% of their state funding per student, while during that same time, tuition and student debt skyrocketed.

The report blames the budget cuts on increased spending on public-worker pensions. Six states saw their pension expenditures rise by more than 100% in that time span: Pennsylvania (172%), Illinois (166%), North Carolina (158%), South Dakota (144%), North Dakota (143%), and Minnesota (106%).

“Forced to adhere to balanced-budget requirements, many state governments have been confronted with tough fiscal choices,” said the report. “One choice that nearly every state has made is to cut funding for higher education.”

The report also says that the bevy of pension reform bills proposed nationwide will not be enough to fix the problem.

“In the wake of the Great Recession, all 50 states enacted pension reforms of some kind, unfortunately, these reforms didn’t go nearly far enough, and pension debt has continued,” said the report, adding that “public-pension reforms will have only a limited impact on state finances for years to come.”

The report attributed the imbalance to the strong legal protection afforded to pension funds that educational institutions are not entitled to. It said that as a result, altering benefit levels for existing employees or those already retired is “difficult, if not impossible,” while the same is not true for public colleges or universities.

“States are in a difficult legal and political position when attempting to rein in pension costs,” said the report, adding that by contrast education funding “is not set by a legally fortified formula, and the possibility of shifting costs to the federal government implicitly incentivizes states to reduce higher-education spending.” 

The report argued that state governments should “reprioritize pension reform” in order to boost higher education “for the good of younger Americans—particularly those from families of modest means—and for the good of the nation’s future economic health.”

 

 

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Article source: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/increased-pension-funding-comes-expense-higher-education/

President Trump’s Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education

Federal budget cuts

Federal budget cuts

President Trump’s full budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, to be released Tuesday, calls for a $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, spending cut to education. The cuts would be spread across K-12 and aid to higher education, according to documents released by the White House.

White House Proposes Deep Cuts To Safety Nets With 'Taxpayer First' Budget Plan

None of this can be finalized without Congress. And the political track record for Presidents who want to reduce education funding is not promising, even in a far less poisoned atmosphere than the one that hovers over Washington right now.

Student loans

This proposal calls for big changes to federal student aid:

  • The federal government would stop subsidizing the interest on student loans, for a cut of $1 billion in the next fiscal year. This would add thousands of dollars to the cost of college, primarily for low-income graduates.
  • Simplifying student loan repayment plans — a proposal that enjoys broad, bipartisan support. Currently, borrowers have a dizzying array of options: standard repayment (a 10-year term), graduated, extended, pay-as-you-earn, income-based, income-contingent and public service loan forgiveness. Trump’s budget would create just one repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. For undergraduate borrowers, the balance would be forgiven after 15 years.
  • In the process of that simplification, the budget would phase out the program known as public service loan forgiveness, which erases student loans after 10 years of employment for the government or a qualifying nonprofit. Almost half a million people are enrolled in this program. Those with graduate, not bachelor’s, degrees, have the largest balances, such as teachers, doctors and lawyers.

It’s not yet clear whether the program would be sunset or canceled immediately. The first group of participants was set to have their loans forgiven this coming October.

Another proposal in this budget with broad support: making Pell Grants, which provide tuition aid for low-income students, available year-round. Currently you can only get one in the fall and one in the spring.

Lauren Asher is a college affordability advocate with the Institute for College Access and Success. That group has supported simplifying student loan repayment. However, she says, all told, this budget amounts to, “multiple cuts that will exacerbate student debt by increasing the need to borrow, and increase the cost of repayment for many but not all students.”

Medicaid

Trump Gives Commencement Address; Leaked Education Budget Has Big Cuts

This budget calls for major cuts to Medicaid. This would affect public schools and students in several ways. For both special-needs students, as well as millions of poor students, public schools provide services, from vision screening to speech therapy, to the tune of $4 billion in reimbursements a year, or 1 percent of all Medicaid dollars.

“It does represent quite a bit of money for schools and it’s significant for them in terms of what they’re able to use it for,” says Jessica Schubel of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

School choice

Title I is the biggest K-12 federal education program. It supports high-poverty schools. Under Trump’s budget, regular Title I funding would be flat. And $1 billion more would be dedicated to a new grant program for states that allow poor students to leave neighborhood schools for other public schools, and take that extra money with them. This concept is known as “portability,” or as it’s sometimes known, the “backpack of cash” idea.

It’s controversial, because in practice it means redistributing funds from poorer schools and potentially poorer districts to richer ones.

In addition, $250 million would go to create vouchers for private schools, and $167 million for charter schools.

The administration is also expected to unveil — outside this budget process — a tax credit scholarship program (sometimes called neo-vouchers), as part of tax reform.

Cuts

Some of the biggest axes would fall on a $2.3 billion program for teacher training and class-size reduction, and a $1.2 billion after-school program, which serves nearly 2 million children, many of them poor.

A $190 million literacy program would also be cut.

What are the chances?

We should note that, though this document has more details than the “budget blueprint” released earlier, nothing becomes law until it passes through Congress.

If history is any guide, budget reductions won’t be so extreme.

The Department of Education was established under President Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan is the only president since then to seek a significant cut in its budget.

In fact, Reagan campaigned on a proposal to eliminate the department altogether. Once elected, his initial budget proposal asked for cuts of 20 to 25 percent in elementary and secondary education, among other programs.

But total appropriations for 1981 ended up higher than the year before. Of course, Reagan was dealing with a House and Senate controlled by the opposing party.

Education Budget Cuts, Student Aid Problems And More

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/05/22/529534031/president-trumps-budget-proposal-calls-for-deep-cuts-to-education

Deadline nears on higher education funding

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Article source: https://www.abqjournal.com/1007262/deadline-nears-on-higher-ed-funding.html

Sen. Weber, colleagues pass higher education, ag, environment budgets

On Sunday evening, Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) and his Senate Republican colleagues led the way in passing final conference committee reports that fund Minnesota’s higher education, agricultural, and environment budget areas. The reports, which are the result of negotiations between the Senate, House, and Gov. Dayton, passed with broad, bipartisan support.

“The benefits of our budgets will be felt by southwestern Minnesotans, as well as citizens across the state,” said Sen. Weber, who served on the conference committee for the agricultural budget. “With a budget surplus exceeding a billion dollars, our budgets prioritize programs proven to work while making a significant investment into the future of our state.”

The omnibus agricultural budget provides $123.5 million in funding for agricultural-related programs in Minnesota. In this amount is funding for programs critical to rural communities, including funding for combating noxious weeds, such as Palmer amaranth, fresh food access in rural communities, and language clarifying that ‘verification of need’ does not supersede ‘label is the law.’ Finally, the bill provides funding for grants that will be available to new and expanding agricultural facilities that provide significant impact to the region, including truShrimp, a rapidly-expanding shrimp production facility located in Balaton.

The higher education budget invests $3.28 billion in Minnesota’s post-secondary institutions and students, workforce training, and research – an increase of $210 million over the previous budget. In addition to a $1.65 million increase in funding to Minnesota West Community and Technical College, supplemental funding will also be available for two-year community and technical colleges in Greater Minnesota, including the Minnesota West system. Funding for programs aimed at addressing our state’s shortage of qualified senior and health care workers, along with the teacher shortage felt in many rural communities, is included in the bill.

Addressing the buffer strip requirement is a primary component of the environment bill, which implements a grace period of eight months for those whose buffer strips may not be in compliance with the requirements. Those implementing buffers can work with local soil and water conservation districts for alternative practices. In addition, the bill includes language exempting cities from Pollution Control Agency water quality standards if their wastewater treatment facilities have less than 16 years of operation, mitigating potentially-enormous costs to city governments.

“Southwestern Minnesota is home to a vibrant agricultural economy and unparalleled natural beauty. Our environment and ag budgets focus on the future and address the many concerns brought to us by farmers, landowners, cities, and counties. In addition, our higher education bill provides Minnesota students – the leaders of tomorrow – access to a quality, affordable post-secondary education, ensuring students and institutions have every opportunity to succeed.” Sen. Weber continued. “These bills will do a lot of good for our entire state.”

Sen. Weber is in his second term representing Senate District 22, which includes communities in Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, and Rock counties. In addition to serving as chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee, Sen. Weber served on the conference committees for the agriculture and education budget.

Article source: http://www.mnsenaterepublicans.com/weber-higher-ed-ag-environment/

Australian v-cs unite against cuts and performance-linked funding

Australian vice-chancellors have unanimously opposed government proposals to cut university funding and increase tuition fees, while concerns have also been raised about plans to introduce performance-based funding for teaching.

The proposals, which were first announced by education minister Simon Birmingham earlier this month, have now been formalised in new draft legislation.

As part of the plans, university funding will be cut by 2.5 per cent and tuition fees will increase by 7.5 per cent. Meanwhile, there are plans to ensure that 7.5 per cent of teaching funding will be “performance-based”.

The government also announced that funded postgraduate places would be reduced by 3,000 nationally and move to a new voucher system where scholarships are allocated to students rather than universities.

Universities Australia said that there was “unanimous opposition” to the proposals to cut funding and increase fees among leaders of the country’s universities – a stance also expressed in sector leaders’ comments to Times Higher Education.

Ian Jacobs, vice-chancellor of the University of New South Wales, said that the announcements were of “major concern” and “reveal a lack of recognition by the government of the nexus between a vibrant university sector and the long-term health of Australia’s society and economy”.

He added that there is a “danger” that the metrics used for performance-based funding in teaching will be “poorly thought through, result in perverse incentives and/or generate pointless administrative activity”.

Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, said that while the government has provided only limited details regarding the changes to teaching funding, “there appear to be similarities with [England’s] teaching excellence framework”.

“If improving teaching quality was a concern, we would not be seeing university funding cuts of A$2.8 billion (£1.6 billion),” he added.

“A major concern is that none of the performance metrics flagged to date relate to research. Currently, 20 to 30 per cent of government university funding in Australia is intended to support research, so this change would likely place even greater pressure on universities to cross-subsidise already under-funded research.”

Margaret Gardner, chair of Universities Australia, said that any performance metrics “would need to be worked through meticulously and with great caution to ensure that any such system did not penalise universities that serve communities with the highest rates of unemployment and social disadvantage, or those with student demographics that have the biggest challenges in degree completions”.

She added that the proposed postgraduate voucher system “would be a profound shift in the way in which Australian university funding operates” and “one that I don’t think has been the subject of extensive discussion within the university sector nor the Australian community”.

Attila Brungs, vice-chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney, said that “in theory” the proposal to tie a proportion of teaching funding to “performance on transparency, student retention and graduate success provides positive incentives for universities to meet student and societal needs”.

“However, it will succeed – or fail dreadfully – depending on the implementation details, which unfortunately have not yet been developed,” he said.

He added that while he did not think the government was looking for universities to become more teaching focused, one of the “likely effects” of the changes “will be the degradation of Australian universities’ research capacity and their ability to provide research-inspired teaching”.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com 

Article source: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/australian-v-cs-unite-against-cuts-and-performance-linked-funding

Budget negotiations: ‘slow, steady progress’; provision Mark Dayton called ‘vouchers’ gone – TwinCities.com

Minnesota lawmakers are dragging themselves toward their Monday finish line, making what Lt. Gov. Tina Smith called “slow, steady progress” on completing a two-year $46 billion state budget.

To get it done, Democrats will have to let go of some of their demands for more spending and Republicans will need to abandon some of the policy changes they wanted.

On Sunday, both sides gave up some centerpieces of their agendas in pursuit of a final deal.

Republicans dropped an effort to give tax breaks in return for donations to scholarship funds for low-income students at private schools. They called the idea “opportunity scholarships,” but DFL Gov. Mark Dayton derided them as “vouchers” that would siphon needed money from public schools.

“That is out,” said Senate Taxes Committee Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. “The governor didn’t want it. … These kids’ futures for now will be again sacrificed at the altar of the omnipotent special interests.”

Though Dayton won that battle, he lost one over public college funding. The budget for higher education will give the state’s colleges and universities $3.2 billion over the next two years. That’s more than Republicans initially wanted but $100 million less than Dayton originally proposed.

HIGHER ED, FARM BILLS PASS

Even as negotiations continued on the state budget, lawmakers sent several parts of the budget to Dayton’s desk.

The higher education spending bill includes $210 million more in higher education funding, with $106 million going to the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and $54.6 million for the University of Minnesota.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said the money was an improvement from earlier proposals and required Minnesota State colleges and universities to keep tuition costs in check.

Democrats said the compromise was insufficient when the state had such a large budget surplus. Sen. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, had the strongest words, saying it was “unconscionable” and “punitive” toward the University of Minnesota and would result in big tuition increases.

Minnesota Senate vote on a higher education budget bill, May 21, 2017 (David Montgomery/Pioneer Press.)
Minnesota Senate vote on a higher education budget bill, May 21, 2017 (David Montgomery/Pioneer Press.)

“We have failed,” Isaacson said. “Shame on us. Shame on the governor. Shame on everyone involved in accepting this framework. This bill does not make Minnesota a better place.”

The Senate approved the bill on a 39-28 vote, with all Republicans voting for it plus five Democrats. The House approved the measure on a 78-54 vote.

The Senate also joined the House in voting overwhelmingly for a budget to fund farm-related programs. That sends it to the governor for his signature.

PROGRESS SLOW ON BIG BILLS

2017-05-21-environment budget in the SenateProgress elsewhere was, as the lieutenant governor said as she left a negotiating session with lawmakers, slow.

It wasn’t until shortly before 11 p.m. that lawmakers finally sent a budget funding environmental programs and state parks to Dayton. The measure allows farmers eight additional months to comply with the state’s vegetative buffer law. Republicans had previously wanted greater changes to the signature Dayton law to protect waters and the governor wanted no changes.

2017-05-21-environment budget in the HouseMinnesotans will also pay about $23 million more in fees for hunting and fishing licenses, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle registrations and to visit state parks.

The plans for taxes, health care programs, roads and bridges and public schools were not public Sunday night.

Meanwhile, private talks continued about a statewide infrastructure bill to fund water projects, college buildings and local infrastructure. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said House and Senate negotiators had meetings with gubernatorial staff and had a “pretty good idea” what would be in and out of a “bonding bill.”

TALK OF “GET-IT-DONE” SPECIAL SESSION

Lawmakers only have until midnight Monday to finish the work in their regular session. But they could come back for a special session to finish the last of their work.

“What I’m hearing more is that we’re not going to finish on time Monday, and we’re going to have to be around here a few more days,” said Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth. 

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Crown-area Republican, said late Sunday that he is hopeful the Legislature could meet the Monday midnight deadline, but he added that some of the bills may take 12 hours or more for the legislative staff specialists to draft.

“You want to make sure you get that right. We really need to come to agreement here very shortly on most of it to make sure we have the time to get it done,” he said.

A drafting error in a 2016 rushed tax cut bill led to Dayton vetoing it.

A brief “get-it-done” special session is not unheard of. In 2010, when Republican Tim Pawlenty when governor, he called the Legislature into a special session that lasted just a few hours.

“I think a short overtime … is not a big deal,” said former Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a Democrat who was speaker from 2007 to 2011. “I think people care more that they complete their work.”

David Montgomery and Bill Salisbury contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.twincities.com/2017/05/21/minnesota-legislature-budget-negotiations-slow-steady-progress-provision-mark-dayton-called-vouchers-is-gone/

Sounding the Alarm: Thriving higher education system needed for strong economy – The State Journal

One could argue the state’s nearly two-year budget impasse has been most visible at the state’s public universities and community colleges.

Students aren’t getting their MAP grants. Faculty, staff and administrators are being laid off. There is concern one or more of the state’s public universities might shut its doors. In just one day in April, the bond ratings of six universities were downgraded, as rating agency SP determined the uncertainty of state funding for higher education made them a bad risk for investors.

Perhaps most embarrassing was this: In April, a national report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association on higher education finances in 2016 spotlighted Illinois as an outlier. That status was cemented due to per-student funding falling by 80 percent year over year, from $10,986 to $2,196, while enrollment at public institutions plunged by 46,000 students (or 11 percent).

Illinois was so bad that if you include it in the report, overall public support for higher education funding fell by 1.8 percent. Remove the Land of Lincoln, and overall support for higher education nationally increased by 3.2 percent.

Illinois needs outstanding higher education facilities that produce knockout research, breathtaking innovation and graduates eager to conquer the world. To do that, universities and colleges need focused strategic plans — and that is only going to happen when there is stability that comes from having a state budget.  

As in other sectors, pension reform (see Thursday’s editorial of our Sounding the Alarm series for more) is key to freeing up more resources for instruction. A study of Illinois by the State Higher Education Executive Officers found that in fiscal year 2015, retirement appropriations consumed 44.3 percent of the total funding for higher education in Illinois. In 2007, it had been just 10.3 percent.

That’s a depressing and sobering shift. In fiscal year 2000, about $218.2 million in state funding was dedicated to pensions, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and $2.13 billion went to operations funding. Fast forward to fiscal year 2015 (the last year there was a permanent state budget), and $1.55 billion went to pay off pension debt — nearly as much as the $1.95 billion the state spent on the actual teaching, research and support operations.

And who has borne the brunt of that shift? Students and their parents have forked over more to help bridge the difference. Average tuition and fees at public universities in Illinois were $4,786 in fiscal year 2002. They had more than tripled to $13,462 by fiscal year 2015, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The restructuring of the state’s pension debt will free up significant funds to actually be spent on instructional costs. So would making all new hires go into a self-managed plan retirement (already an option in the State University Retirement System), and allowing any current employees the option of switching to such a plan.

But stable funding is just a start for retooling our institutions of higher education. It’s time for a thorough examination of what they should be and a commitment to making our institutions centers of achievement that spur economic growth in Illinois.

Most of the four-year public universities in Illinois were established as regional education centers. They offered similar programs, with the thinking that students in those areas wouldn’t have to travel far for their education. That made sense 100 years ago when traveling was more difficult, but if the number of students who are heading out of state for college is any indication, they are willing to travel if it means access to excellent programs.

Universities are, and need to remain, the economic drivers of their home communities. Figures shared by the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education show that colleges and universities in Illinois employ 175,000 people statewide and generate more than $50 billion in economic activity. For every $1 the state spends on higher ed, it gets $25 back. It’s an outstanding value.

But each campus should have designated areas of specialization. In today’s specialized world, universities must adapt and put aside the notion that they can be all things to all people. Program offerings should be evaluated, and under-enrolled programs must be pruned, allowing institutions to focus on their strongest offerings.

Doing that might mean revamping the structure of the schools: Does each one need a board, or should we perhaps mirror our neighbor to the north? The University of Wisconsin system oversees 13 four-year universities and 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges campuses, which provides efficiencies in administration. Illinois needs to examine that. A 2015 report by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus found that the number of full-time administrative staff at public universities ballooned by 31.1 percent from 2004 to 2010. But during the same time period, the number of full-time faculty increased by just 1.8 percent, and there was only a 2.3 percent increase in part- and full-time students.

The last two years of belt tightening in the absence of a budget and funding have likely changed those numbers, and we understand the definition of “administration” in Illinois needs to be refined as it can include positions that no one would consider administration.

We aren’t ready to recommend a UW System of management — but we believe it’s a question that needs to be answered, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education should start that conversation now as a means toward setting a solid plan for the system’s future.

But make no mistake — the governor and General Assembly need to resolve the budget crisis and make the investment in higher ed that Illinois needs to make it a competitive, healthy state. 

— Coming Sunday in the SJ-R editorial board’s Sounding the Alarm series: Changes to taxes and consolidating governments needed to get Illinois’ fiscal ship in order.

Article source: http://www.sj-r.com/opinion/20170520/sounding-alarm-thriving-higher-education-system-needed-for-strong-economy

Sounding the Alarm: Thriving higher education system needed for … – The State Journal

One could argue the state’s nearly two-year budget impasse has been most visible at the state’s public universities and community colleges.

Students aren’t getting their MAP grants. Faculty, staff and administrators are being laid off. There is concern one or more of the state’s public universities might shut its doors. In just one day in April, the bond ratings of six universities were downgraded, as rating agency SP determined the uncertainty of state funding for higher education made them a bad risk for investors.

Perhaps most embarrassing was this: In April, a national report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association on higher education finances in 2016 spotlighted Illinois as an outlier. That status was cemented due to per-student funding falling by 80 percent year over year, from $10,986 to $2,196, while enrollment at public institutions plunged by 46,000 students (or 11 percent).

Illinois was so bad that if you include it in the report, overall public support for higher education funding fell by 1.8 percent. Remove the Land of Lincoln, and overall support for higher education nationally increased by 3.2 percent.

Illinois needs outstanding higher education facilities that produce knockout research, breathtaking innovation and graduates eager to conquer the world. To do that, universities and colleges need focused strategic plans — and that is only going to happen when there is stability that comes from having a state budget.  

As in other sectors, pension reform (see Thursday’s editorial of our Sounding the Alarm series for more) is key to freeing up more resources for instruction. A study of Illinois by the State Higher Education Executive Officers found that in fiscal year 2015, retirement appropriations consumed 44.3 percent of the total funding for higher education in Illinois. In 2007, it had been just 10.3 percent.

That’s a depressing and sobering shift. In fiscal year 2000, about $218.2 million in state funding was dedicated to pensions, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and $2.13 billion went to operations funding. Fast forward to fiscal year 2015 (the last year there was a permanent state budget), and $1.55 billion went to pay off pension debt — nearly as much as the $1.95 billion the state spent on the actual teaching, research and support operations.

And who has borne the brunt of that shift? Students and their parents have forked over more to help bridge the difference. Average tuition and fees at public universities in Illinois were $4,786 in fiscal year 2002. They had more than tripled to $13,462 by fiscal year 2015, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

The restructuring of the state’s pension debt will free up significant funds to actually be spent on instructional costs. So would making all new hires go into a self-managed plan retirement (already an option in the State University Retirement System), and allowing any current employees the option of switching to such a plan.

But stable funding is just a start for retooling our institutions of higher education. It’s time for a thorough examination of what they should be and a commitment to making our institutions centers of achievement that spur economic growth in Illinois.

Most of the four-year public universities in Illinois were established as regional education centers. They offered similar programs, with the thinking that students in those areas wouldn’t have to travel far for their education. That made sense 100 years ago when traveling was more difficult, but if the number of students who are heading out of state for college is any indication, they are willing to travel if it means access to excellent programs.

Universities are, and need to remain, the economic drivers of their home communities. Figures shared by the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education show that colleges and universities in Illinois employ 175,000 people statewide and generate more than $50 billion in economic activity. For every $1 the state spends on higher ed, it gets $25 back. It’s an outstanding value.

But each campus should have designated areas of specialization. In today’s specialized world, universities must adapt and put aside the notion that they can be all things to all people. Program offerings should be evaluated, and under-enrolled programs must be pruned, allowing institutions to focus on their strongest offerings.

Doing that might mean revamping the structure of the schools: Does each one need a board, or should we perhaps mirror our neighbor to the north? The University of Wisconsin system oversees 13 four-year universities and 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges campuses, which provides efficiencies in administration. Illinois needs to examine that. A 2015 report by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus found that the number of full-time administrative staff at public universities ballooned by 31.1 percent from 2004 to 2010. But during the same time period, the number of full-time faculty increased by just 1.8 percent, and there was only a 2.3 percent increase in part- and full-time students.

The last two years of belt tightening in the absence of a budget and funding have likely changed those numbers, and we understand the definition of “administration” in Illinois needs to be refined as it can include positions that no one would consider administration.

We aren’t ready to recommend a UW System of management — but we believe it’s a question that needs to be answered, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education should start that conversation now as a means toward setting a solid plan for the system’s future.

But make no mistake — the governor and General Assembly need to resolve the budget crisis and make the investment in higher ed that Illinois needs to make it a competitive, healthy state. 

— Coming Sunday in the SJ-R editorial board’s Sounding the Alarm series: Changes to taxes and consolidating governments needed to get Illinois’ fiscal ship in order.

Article source: http://www.sj-r.com/opinion/20170520/sounding-alarm-thriving-higher-education-system-needed-for-strong-economy

Both sides say they’re close to higher ed deal

………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ………. ……….

The Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Democrats and Republicans alike sound ready to restore funding for New Mexico colleges and universities when they head back to the Roundhouse next week for a special session.

But a proposal to reshape the tax code – an immediate priority of Gov. Susana Martinez – could be in for some real turbulence.

That much was clear Friday after Martinez met with legislative leaders as they try to resolve a budget impasse that’s left New Mexico without a budget in place for higher education and legislative agencies in the fiscal year starting July 1.

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The Republican governor and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, each expressed optimism Friday about the possibility of reaching agreement on a plan to fund higher education.

“Priority No. 1 is restoring higher education, and I think we’re really close,” Wirth said.

In a written statement, the Martinez administration described Friday’s meeting as productive.

“The governor is confident that there will ultimately be agreement on funding measures, including funding for higher education,” her spokesman, Michael Lonergan, said.

The real question may be how to pay for it.

Martinez vetoed a $350 million package of tax and fee increases earlier this year. She also removed funding in the budget for higher education and the Legislature itself, moves she described as only temporary until a spending plan can be crafted without tax increases.

Martinez has suggested a willingness to accept some new revenue if it’s linked to a broader overhaul of the state tax system.

Democrats and some Republicans in the Legislature, meanwhile, have expressed serious reservations about reshaping the tax code in a special session, without further study of how the change might affect revenue.

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Neither Martinez nor Wirth suggested they’re close to agreement on that topic.

“The governor reiterated that she will not support standalone tax increases, but is hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan path forward on tax reform,” Lonergan said.

Wirth said legislators have not yet seen a copy of the tax-code legislation backed by Martinez, adding to their concern that it should be studied more thoroughly before there’s final action.

But he said there’s bipartisan support for the concept in general and the governor’s support is helpful.

“The question becomes: Is it responsible and prudent to pass a bill in two days that we haven’t seen yet?” Wirth said in an interview.

Another challenge for the governor and lawmakers: They don’t agree on how much money they need to balance the budget.

A revenue estimate developed in December would put the figure at about $150 million, based on an overall operating budget of $6.1 billion.

But staff economists working for the Legislative Finance Committee say the potential deficit may be just $70 million, or even less, because the economy has improved since then.

Oil and gas prices, which fluctuate, are a critical piece of state revenue.

In any case, to help bridge the gap, Democrats in the Legislature have suggested the state impose a gross receipts tax on retail sales made online – through Amazon.com, for example, which is already paying the tax voluntarily – and by imposing some new tax liability on nonprofit hospitals. The idea would be to treat nonprofit hospitals more like their for-profit counterparts.

The hospital and internet tax changes could raise about $111 million in revenue each year, supporters say.

And Democrats have pitched the ideas to Martinez as a way to close loopholes in the tax code – in other words, they don’t have to be considered tax increases.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Friday’s meeting with the governor included a “good and frank conversation.”

“We made it clear that we have to find recurring revenues to pay for the restoration of funding to higher education,” Egolf said. “We also committed to work in the coming months with both parties on bipartisan tax reform that will work for everyday New Mexicans.”

The Martinez administration has suggested the internet and hospital tax proposals might be acceptable, if they’re part of a broader overhaul that simplifies New Mexico’s tax system, levels the playing field for businesses and makes the state more attractive to new industries.

Martinez has flatly opposed other tax increases passed by the Legislature, such as increased gasoline taxes and fees for purchasing vehicles.

Martinez has described tax overhaul as a key to the budget impasse. Removing the series of credits and deductions that riddle the system of gross receipts taxes, she said, would allow the state to broaden its tax base and lower the overall tax rate.

The changes could be phased in over time, she argues, allowing for a bump in revenue to help next year’s budget while remaining “revenue neutral” in the long run.

Article source: https://www.abqjournal.com/1006087/at-roundhouse-optimism-grows-for-higher-education-funding.html

German universities reject competitive teaching funding

German universities have emphatically rejected a proposal that they fear could mean competing for funding on the basis of their teaching quality, but the plan is not off the table.

As the UK prepares to unveil its controversial teaching excellence framework (TEF) ratings and the Australian government plans to award a portion of teaching funding on the basis of “performance”, German university leaders have argued that comparing teaching quality is a near impossible task.

Last month, the German Council of Science and Humanities (WR), which advises the federal government and states on research policy, put forward proposals for a new independent body that would award funding for new and innovative teaching schemes.

In an unusually rapid and unanimous response, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), which represents university leaders, rejected the idea last week. One of the reasons, Horst Hippler, the body’s president, said in a statement, was that “there are limitations on the comparison of teaching and teaching projects in a competitive setting”.

The final decision rests with federal and state governments, so the plan could still go ahead.

Sabine Behrenbeck, head of the WR’s higher education department, told Times Higher Education that it envisaged making only a very small proportion of the teaching budget competitive – about 1 per cent of the total. This money would go to promising projects exploring new ways to teach, rather than being distributed on the basis of some kind of standardised assessment of teaching quality.

“We don’t recommend a TEF,” she said. “We don’t trust so much in metrics, for assessment, but in evaluation by peers.”

Still, she added that the proposed new body would organise discussions on “how can we evaluate the quality of teaching” in the future.


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The proposals are part of a long-running attempt in Germany to get universities to pay more attention to teaching rather than research, an issue that has played out in several other countries, including the UK.

But the problem for governments the world over is that measuring teaching quality is notoriously difficult: the UK’s TEF focuses on metrics including student satisfaction scores and graduate employment, but these have been criticised respectively for being too subjective and too utilitarian as measures of the quality of a university education.

In Germany, there is little indication so far about how teaching quality might be assessed, should this ever become part of national policy. Tobias Schmohl, a researcher at the University of Hamburg‘s Centre for University Teaching and Learning, said that was “one of the reasons why everybody is nervous right now”. Unlike in the UK, however, graduate destinations are not part of the discussion in Germany, he said.

Other ideas currently being mooted focus on making sure lecturers have teaching qualifications and continuous training, as well as taking teaching experience into account when making hiring decisions, explained Christian Tauch, head of the HRK’s education department.

Although German universities have rejected the proposed new nationwide teaching body, they nonetheless face a ticking time bomb over their financial situation. In 2020, federal funding that allowed them to cope with a big rise in student numbers is set to expire and there are question marks over how many strings the federal government will attach to any replacement money.

German universities fear that the proposed new body will mean a continuation of this kind of temporary, project-based funding. Instead they want “continuous, sufficient funding” on a permanent basis for teaching, said Mr Tauch. “You can’t build up new structures based on this [temporary] money.”

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com

Article source: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/german-universities-reject-competitive-teaching-funding