The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

November 15, 2012

Colleges could receive cash for meeting goals, panel says

PHILADELPHIA — A commission charged with improving higher education in Pennsylvania has recommended that colleges and universities be able to earn additional state funding by meeting certain performance targets.

The proposal by the governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education is among nearly 20 ideas designed to address the state’s need for lifelong learners, better accessibility and affordability, a diverse student population and en­hanced global competitiveness.

The panel’s suggestions were released Wednesday after nine months of study by members including public and private college presidents, business leaders and state education officials.

“The conclusion that everybody came to was that investment in higher education is central to the economic future and success of the commonwealth,” said John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the 14 state-owned universities and a commission member.

“And that investment needs to be broad, and respect and reflect the different kinds of higher education there are.”

The report comes as students nationwide struggle with loan debt, the job market increasingly demands more than a high school diploma, and colleges work to control costs in the face of decreasing subsidies. Higher education funding in Pennsylvania has declined more than 20 percent from its peak four years ago.

To help compensate, the commission proposed a performance fund of $256 million that would be distributed among schools that meet goals such as controlling tuition and increasing access to under-represented groups.

The state university system has been using a similar ap­proach for more than 10 years, Cavanaugh noted, resulting in better completion rates for black and Latino students.

Other recommendations:

• Develop “Passport for Learning,” an online portal that would facilitate career planning and transitions by linking students with businesses, education providers, training and credentials.

• Establish a consortium of research universities that would develop an “Innovation Agenda” to guide the governor in creating tax incentives and other programs to advance research enterprises.

• Reach out to populations including low-income, rural, black and Latino older than 45.

Gov. Tom Corbett created the 31-member commission in February.

 

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