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WISCAPE policy brief highlights impact of performance funding at community colleges

October 04, 2018

The Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) has released a new policy brief highlighting the effects of performance funding on various types of credential completions at community colleges.

Policy Design Matters coverTitled "Policy Design Matters: The Impact of Performance Funding Policies on Credential Completion at Community Colleges," and authored by Amy Y. Li, Alec I. Kennedy, and Margaret L. Sebastian, the brief shares results from a recent study examining how policies with particular design features affect short-term certificate, medium-term certificate, and associate degree completions. 

The study found that ​some design features​ -- for instance those policies ​​allocating over 5 percent of base funding based on outcomes​ -- produce increases in short-term certificate completions. As it is generally quicker and less costly for colleges to graduate students from certificate programs, ​these results suggest that colleges may be ​encouraging students to complete short-term certificates to maximize their performance-based funds.

Policies in place for at least two fiscal years were also more likely to produce declines in associate degree completions. There was an inconsistent relationship found between performance funding and medium-term certificate completions.

These results are concerning, as short-term certificates generally have limited economic benefits for students when compared with longer-term certificates and associate degrees. It also underscores the importance of policy design in fostering the intended outcomes of performance funding as an accountability tool.

Amy Y. Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Northern Colorado. Alec I. Kennedy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Margaret L. Sebastian is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Development at the University of Northern Colorado.

Visit WISCAPE's website to download the policy brief.

Read articles in Inside Higher Ed and Higher Education Today summarizing findings from the policy brief. 

WISCAPE is housed in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) within UW-Madison's School of Education.

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