A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Geoffrey Mearns: Legislative priority, outcomes-based funding model, goes to Governor; more to do

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A message sent to the university community:

For 20 years, Kentucky has funded public higher education based upon historic politics, rather than student outcomes. That antiquated approach has been a detriment to institutions like NKU, because of our significant growth during that time.  It’s also been an impediment to increasing degree productivity all across the Commonwealth.  
 
Yesterday, the Kentucky House of Representatives joined the Senate by passing Senate Bill 153, our legislative priority this session, to create an outcomes-based funding model. The model allocates state support based on three main components: student outcomes, credit hours completed, and institutional operations. While initially the model will apply to only five percent of our state appropriation, it has been designed to apply over time to the entirety of Kentucky’s higher education funding. 
 
Three years ago, when I began advocating for the creation of an outcomes-based funding model, someone familiar with the legislative process told me there was no way this change would ever happen. But because of people like you, who contacted our elected officials and who advocated on social networks, what was once said to be impossible is now poised to become law. 
 
I am very grateful to our Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus. In both the House and the Senate, we had strong leadership and support. Because our Caucus kept this issue at the forefront, historic change will now become a reality.
 
I am also grateful to Governor Bevin, who included outcomes-based funding as a pillar of his policy agenda since he was a candidate two years ago. 
 
Finally, most importantly, I am grateful to you. Over the past two legislative sessions, nearly 7,500 messages have been sent to Frankfort advocating for an outcomes-based funding model. This advocacy campaign was funded by our NKU Foundation.
 
Change is never easy.  But because you took the time to contact our elected officials, we have positively changed the future of our University and the Commonwealth.
 
This step is an important one for NKU, but it is not our last step.

Our quest for fair funding will continue next year, when we advocate for the other half of our funding disparity – $5.1 million more funding for our University. Until the playing field has been completely leveled, Kentucky’s higher education funding model will not operate as equitably and efficiently as it has been designed. 

With continued support, I am confident we will finish the job next year.

Geoffrey S. Mearns is president of Northern Kentucky University.

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