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Hillman says 'collaborative model' works best for deciding performance-based funding metrics

March 15, 2017

UW-Madison's Nicholas Hillman was quoted in a recent Daily Cardinal article discussing how the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) could offer a model for implementing performance-based funding in the UW System.

“Part of Gov. Scott Walker’s recent budget proposal would compare each UW System school’s performance against a set of criteria to determine their share of state funding​,” the article explains. Though ​the criteria have yet to be identified, "performance-based metrics are not a new idea in Wisconsin or the nation. Three years ago, the Wisconsin Technical College System implemented a system of performance-based metrics in all of their 16 districts."

Hillman has done research on performance-based funding, and sa​id that “Walker’s current proposal includes metrics that are inconsistent with industry standards for successful performance metrics.” Instead, Hillman suggests “a collaborative model.”

For instance, when WTCS implemented performance-based funding, “State legislators and technical colleges administrators collaborated to determine a list of nine metrics the districts would use to assess performance,” the article explains. “Each college then chose seven metrics for their school to measure themselves against.”

Hillman explained that this “gave a little bit of flexibility in that process and that also gave campuses a little bit of a buy-in.”

Hillman said that "applying the same categories of criteria to all schools is unlikely to yield the desired results. He suggested mission differentiation, with different metrics tailored to each university's goals, would allow each campus to measure themselves against standards that are responsive to their priorities.”

Lastly, he said that “allowing schools to be part of a deliberative process to decide which metrics are best, like the technical colleges, can make help models survive changing administrations, as well as shifting economic and political trends.”

“These policies come and go," he said. "They are like many management fads and they have very short shelf lives. If Wisconsin really wants to be committed to this, a little nuance along the way would be to include campuses in some of the planning, so if they're gonna do it they do it really in a sustainable way.”

Hillman is an associate professor with the School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis who researches higher education finance and policy. Hillman also is a faculty affiliate with UW-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs, and is a Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) faculty affiliate.

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