LITTLE ROCK — The proposed switch to a new, outcomes-based funding formula for higher education in Arkansas is touted by supporters as a way to encourage colleges and universities to improve educational attainment — and as a way to help them make the case that they need more money.

LITTLE ROCK — The proposed switch to a new, outcomes-based funding formula for higher education in Arkansas is touted by supporters as a way to encourage colleges and universities to improve educational attainment — and as a way to help them make the case that they need more money.


The state Higher Education Coordinating Board voted Friday to adopt the basic framework for a revamped funding formula, with details left to be filled in later and approval still needed from the Legislature. Ultimately, higher education officials hope to see the funding model implemented beginning in the 2018-19 school year.


As explained to the board by Bret Powell on Friday, Powell’s last day before leaving his position as ADHE director to take a job at Henderson State University, the plan would tie 100 percent of higher education funding to the achievement of specific outcomes, replacing the current model that ties 10 percent of funding to performance and most to enrollment.


The desired outcomes under the proposed formula would include increased degree-completion rates, shorter times to graduate, reduced achievement gaps between groups of students and increased job attainment and retention by graduates.


Powell said this approach would give colleges and universities an incentive to improve outcomes for students and would give the institutions a stronger argument to make to lawmakers for increased funding.


That’s a big issue for Arkansas colleges and universities. Their state funding has not been increased in 10 years, requiring them to raise tuition and fees to keep up with rising costs.


An outcomes-based model "would change that conversation from, ‘We have students, so give us funding,’ to ‘We have achieved results, and the funding should follow those results,’" Powell told the board.


Some board members said they agreed.


"I see this framework as a method to influence the governor and the Legislature to increase funding rather than just have the status quo," said Charles Allen of Little Rock.


Ben Pickard of Searcy said raising tuition and fees results in students getting deeper in debt.


"In my mind, it is our responsibility to stand up for higher education and say, ‘We’re taking these steps, but we just absolutely must have additional funding, for not only the benefit of the state and the institutions, but most of all for the students of the state," he said.


Pickard moved for the board to ask Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature for a funding increase for higher education, and the motion carried.


Powell told reporters after Friday’s meeting that increased funding is crucial for the proposed funding model to work.


"I really think that if we adopt this model and there’s no new money, then we’ve really not changed anything," he said.


Hutchinson, who directed higher education officials to begin working on an outcomes-based funding model last year, told reporters last week, "We might have to look at it, whether it’s going to require any more money and whether I have to ask the Legislature for more money to accomplish it, but I am supportive of the new formula that’s being presented."