Perry higher-ed plan touts cash incentives, exit tests
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
Gov. Rick Perry outlined one of the most sweeping higher education reform proposals in the nation today, calling for cash incentives for universities to push students to graduation and mandatory exit exams to track how much students are learning.
The plan would increase higher education funding by $1.7 billion, including a huge expansion of the B-On-Time loan program, which forgives loans for students who graduate college in four years with a B average.
“If lawmakers adopt this plan the ultimate result will be a higher education system that is more affordable, more accountable and more focused on meeting the needs of tomorrow’s global marketplace,” Perry said.
University administrators and national higher education experts heralded the plan as a visionary answer to many of the financial problems colleges face. But critics, including several key Democratic lawmakers, said the proposal relies too heavily on loans instead of grants and could hurt students who have to work their way through school.
One of the key provisions is the $350 million pay-for-performance measure that would let colleges earn money for graduating students and getting them to perform well on exit exams. The funding is meant to bolster Texas’ effort to increase the number of undergraduate degrees and certificates awarded annually to 171,000 by the end of the decade.
Universities would get a cash reward for each student who graduates, with bonuses available for students who major in science- or math-related fields or come from a disadvantaged background. Community and technical colleges would get rewards for awarding certificates and associate degrees or sending students on to four-year universities.
Perry estimated the average reward would be about $2,200 per university graduate and about $1,200 per community college graduate or transfer.
To ensure universities were holding graduates to high standards, students would have to take a professional licensing test in their field, an end-of-course exam related to their major or a general test like the GRE. They wouldn’t have to pass, but better scores would mean bigger rewards for their universities.