LITTLE ROCK — The Senate on Monday approved and sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson a bill calling for a revamp of Arkansas’ funding formula for higher education.
In a 32-1 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 1209 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle. The bill, which passed 80-10 in the House last week, directs the state Higher Education Coordinating Board to adopt a funding model for colleges and universities that would distribute money based on certain outcomes rather than enrollment levels.
Hutchinson said last year he wants the state to adopt an outcomes-based funding formula for state colleges and universities. He has said that if the Legislature approves the revamp, he will seek a $10 million funding boost for higher education for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
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. Enrollment numbers are the primary basis for distributing funds under the current system.
HB 1209 does not provide all the details of the planned funding formula but does set out goals for which schools would be rewarded, such as improving degree completion, serving under-represented students and improving affordability.
Lowery has said the state Department of Education will develop the funding model and submit it to the Higher Education Coordinating Board for approval.
Presenting the bill on the Senate floor Monday, co-sponsor Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, said the Legislature will have the final say on the changes.
“The good thing is every new rule that’s made will have to go before ALC and will have to be approved and I suspect (will go) back to the Education Committee,” he said.