College & Workforce Readiness

Giving Colleges a Financial Reason to Boost Completion Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — May 27, 2009 1 min read
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How much can colleges boost their completion rates when their funding depends on it? More may soon find out. This story in USA Today reports that several states are floating proposals to tie funding of public colleges to their graduation rates, or to interim indicators like credit accrual or course passage, instead of to enrollment.

Intriguing idea. But is this the right incentive? And is it applied to the right spot?

I wonder how well high schools would be able to raise their graduation rates if their funding was tied to their diploma count instead of their head count. After all, the prospect of losing students and funding to charter schools hasn’t spread universal fabulousness through the high school world.

Should basing funding on completion rates be a central strategy in improving high school and college outcomes? How much of the completion problem is tied to schools’ financial incentives?

I can’t help but think of what Prince sang not too long ago: “Money might talk, but what does it say? You better get busy if you wanna get paid.”

Not so easy in high schools. Lots of folks are pretty darn busy, but not all those busy souls are producing good results for our kids.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.