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UW-Madison’s Hillman quoted in Wall Street Journal about performance-based funding

March 16, 2017

UW-Madison's Nicholas Hillman was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article discussing the impact of performance-based funding on university and student success.

According to the article, “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has recommended expanding its [performance based-funding] model, now in use at the state's technical colleges, to four-year public universities.”

“At least 33 states now use performance-based funding, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, meaning they divvy up appropriations in part by looking at outcomes that might include graduation rates, debt loads or graduates in high-demand fields like engineering.”

However, the article explains, “Critics say cutting funds from schools where outcomes aren't already on the upswing perpetuates a downward spiral in performance, because it may pull funds from schools that need them for more academic advising and other support services.”

“Despite the models' growing popularity, student outcomes don't improve dramatically when funding is tied to graduation rates or similar measures,” Hillman said. "I don't want to be the skunk at the garden party,” he continued, “but you want to have evidence-based policies and this is what the evidence says."

“Still,” Hillman added, “there can be value in pushing institutions to reflect more on how they can best serve students.”

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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