LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Friday approved the basic framework for a proposed new funding formula for higher education that would reward institutions for achieving certain outcomes, including increasing degree-completion rates.

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Friday approved the basic framework for a proposed new funding formula for higher education that would reward institutions for achieving certain outcomes, including increasing degree-completion rates.


The board also approved naming Maria Markham, currently vice chancellor for academic services as Cossatot Community College in De Queen, as the next director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.


Outgoing ADHE Director Bret Powell, speaking to the board on his last day in that position before leaving to become vice president for finance and administration at Henderson State University, said the framework was developed by a work group made up of representatives of universities and community colleges from across the state. The work group will continue working to iron out the details of the funding formula, he said, calling the framework the "bones" of the plan.


Under a 2011 state law, 10 percent of funding to colleges and universities is based on achievement of certain outcomes, a percentage that originally was supposed to increase each year but was frozen by the Legislature in 2013 because of flat funding for higher education. Powell said the proposed new formula, if approved by the Legislature next year, would be 100 percent outcomes-based.


He said this new approach would "better align funding with the priorities of the state," namely, increasing educational attainment in Arkansas — currently ranked 48th in the nation in the percentage of adults with college degrees — through a number of goals.


"Those goals are to improve on completion rates of students, to improve on the equity gap that we see, to increase the number of adults who are engaged in post-secondary education and to improve on affordability of higher education," Powell said.


An outcomes-based funding model also would give institutions an incentive to adopt strategies aligned with the state’s goals and allow institutions to make a better case to lawmakers for increasing funding, which the Legislature has not done in 10 years, Powell said.


Talking later to reporters, Powell said the funding formula would be weighted so that institutions would not be penalized for accepting students who might require more attention to help them attain a degree. He also said the model would track students’ post-graduation job attainment and retention, to ensure institutions do not have an incentive to make their courses less academically rigorous.


If the Legislature approves the framework during the session that begins in January, the details of the plan will then be fleshed out and the board likely will consider it in April, Powell said. The model also would have to go through a public-comment period and the legislative review process.


Higher education officials hope to see the funding model implemented beginning in the 2018-19 school year.


The board approved a motion to adopt the framework in a voice vote, with no "no" votes heard.


Member Ben Pickard of Searcy moved that the board ask the governor and the Legislature to increase funding for higher education. That motion also carried in a voice vote.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who directed ADHE to begin working on an outcomes-based funding model last year, said in a statement after the meeting, "These changes will promote efficiency of operations, encourage on-time completion and encourage allocation of resources to areas which directly impact student success, such as faculty salaries and academic support services.


"My priority continues to be increasing the percentage of Arkansans that are career-ready, equipped with degrees and industry-recognized certificates, and this new revolutionary funding model will help us achieve just that," he said.


The board approved naming Markham to head ADHE in another voice vote with no "no" votes heard. Member Greg Revels of De Queen abstained because he was a reference on Markham’s application.


Markham will start on the job Aug. 15. Ann Clemmer previously was named to serve as interim director between Powell’s departure and the start date of his successor.