MSU will receive 4.5 million dollars in funding for successfully improving student performance in the last fiscal year. Part of the Montana University System’s general 15 million dollar fund appropriation from the Montana Legislature, these funds are used as a strategy to increase the number of degrees earned on Montana campuses. Each of the eight public campuses in Montana are eligible for a portion of the money.
Previously, from 1972 to 2014, enrollment was the only metric used to determine funding. Beginning in 2014, performance became the measure used to determine the portion of money each campus receives. Performance is based on how many students are enrolling in school and actually graduating.
“Performance funding is an incentive for universities to focus more attention on helping students stay in school and graduate and less attention on simply getting them to enroll,” said Executive Director of University Communications Tracy Ellig.
Each campus in Montana can receive performance funding based on resident student enrollment across all eight of Montana’s campuses. MSU has the most students enrolled by a full-time equivalent (FTE), and therefore receives the maximum amount. FTE is calculated by adding the enrollment time of each in-state student, For example, four in-state students attending quarter-time would equal one FTE.
MSU has the highest FTE in the university system, with 30.6 percent of all FTE Montana resident students. Therefore if it reaches its performance goals, it receives 30.6 percent of the 15 million dollar pool. The University of Montana has the second highest FTE, with 27.2 percent of all FTE Montana resident students and therefore if it reaches performance goals, receives 27.2 percent of the 15 million dollar pool.
Ellig emphasized that the campuses do not compete against each other for this funding. The structure of the funding is to incentivize each campus to strive to improve past performance.
To get this funding, MSU has to show progress in specific metrics determined by the Montana Board of Regents. The goal is to improve retention rates, increase the number of students who earn undergraduate degrees, increase the number of students who earn graduate degrees and increase MSU’s research expenditures.
These measures are weighted and indexed to determine growth target goals. If the campus reaches this growth target they receive full funding. If a campus falls below their target but only because of random, non-systematic fluctuations they will receive a portion of the funding. Also, because of the point system a university could see an increase in retention rates and a decrease in research expenditures and still receive full funding.
The evaluation and funding are considered each fiscal year. The million dollars MSU was recently awarded falls into the 2017 fiscal year. MSU’s performance in the 2016 fiscal year determined if MSU reached its performance goals. Each fiscal year begins July 1.
Performance funding is important to MSU’s budget. Ellig explained that this money is not additional money from the Montana Legislature and therefore goes into MSU’s regular budget. “It is simply part of our base budget. If we did not receive our full share of performance funding money it would essentially mean a reduction in our base budget,” Ellig said.
Ellig also said that the four-year graduation rate does not factor into the funding. Graduation rates also do not account for student experiences and other factors. “Using the absolute number of degrees awarded encourages us to help students who transfer here, attend part time because of other obligations or drop out for a semester or a year, as well as those started here as first-time college students,” Ellig said.