Performance Based Funding and Contingency

Performance-based funding (also called outcomes-based funding) is used by 26 states, according to a new piece put out by PEW charitable trusts, 7/28 2015. Tennessee has gone to 100% outcomes-based state funding for public colleges and universities. Oregon has flirted with partial funding based on indicators like degree completion, through the HECC (Higher Education Coordinating Commission)

I have heard many colleagues condemn this move, for many interesting reasons. Prominent among them is the idea that it is a further way in which higher education is becoming “corporate” or adopting an inappropriate and badly fitting business model. But there is a way in which this trend could help improve the poor (indeed shameful) treatment of contingent faculty.

In a business, success can be tracked by the bottom line of profit. When profit is decreased through bad treatment of employees, there is a feedback loop…profit goes down. Progressive employment practices — including professional development, credible and meaningful performance reviews, transparent hiring and promotion process, family leave and flex time — all make sense NOT as issues of justice in a for-profit business, but because they increase employee satisfaction which results in higher productivity. (Which then results in more profit.)

Colleges and universities provide services to students. Through these benefits to individual students, we bring a host of benefits to our broader community. But all PCC services depend on informed and committed employees — faculty, APs, staff and administrators. Not surprisingly, treating staff well makes a difference from the standpoint of student outcomes. Students do better, for example, when they have teachers who are supported, respected, and included in the organizational life of the educational community. The slogan, in this case, has outcomes-based evidence in its favor: faculty work conditions are student learning conditions. It is not just the teachers who suffer when instructors don’t know what (if anything!) they will be teaching from term to term (because they have no job security), have no idea who to call in an emergency in the evening during a night class (because they never got that basic orientation), do not know who the advisers and councilors are, or who might be teaching the next class in the sequence (because they are too busy driving from one college to the next to form relationships with colleagues….) etc etc etc. A move to tracking OUTCOMES of shabby treatment of instructors in the lives of students could help make visible all the “hidden costs” of the cheap contingent labor.

Should pccffap resist or embrace a funding model in Oregon that takes at least partial count of outcomes like student success? I am among the instructors here at PCC who can’t wait for our administration to start counting the “hits” to the bottom line of student well-being of the bad treatment of loyal, hard-working and dedicated adjuncts.

respectfully submitted by Shirlee G