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Higher Ed. Concerns Shift to Student Success Over Funding

Pressure for public colleges to increase students success will likely be a bigger issue than funding next year, according to a new policy brief released Tuesday by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

After six years of angst over state financial support for higher education, which led the list ofTop 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues, AASCU anticipates a push by state policymakers for colleges to improve graduation rates and overall degree production.

AASCU notes that there is momentum for linking state money to student outcomes, as 33 states have expressed interest or are currently implementing performance-based funding systems, up from fewer than 10 states just two years ago.

In listing "boosting institutional performance" as its top issue, AASCU acknowledged a broadening acceptance that state reinvestment in public higher education will be slow in coming.

Cuts in support for higher education have been harsh, and state and local higher education funding per full-time student is currently at its lowest level in 25 years (when adjusted for inflation). Realizing that public colleges and universities will continue to operate in a fiscally challenged environment, the attention now will shift to getting the most students through school with existing dollars, the AASCU analysis suggested.

"The prevailing theme for state higher education policy in 2013 will likely be improvement in the performance of states' public higher education systems and institutions, collectively aimed at boosting measures of college affordability, productivity, and student success," the policy brief said. The move is driven by concerns of lawmakers and the general public about college affordability.

This will likely mean public colleges will maintain admission standards that promote student access and use more intensive retention strategies that increase the likelihood of student success.

Still, state money for higher education came in second on the AASCU list. Other top issues to follow in the new year: tuition prices and policy, state student-grant programs, and improving college readiness with more rigorous standards and reforms to remedial education.

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