JEFFERSON CITY — State funding for public universities and colleges would be tied to the salaries and professional status of their alumni under a bill introduced Monday in a House committee.
House Bill 2602 is called the “College Workforce Readiness Act” for four-year universities and the “Two-Year Workforce Readiness Act” for community colleges.
The bill would empower the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to calculate a performance score for each school each year and present it to the legislature, which would make the final funding decision. .
Performance indicators would take into account the average annual earnings of graduates with and without Pell grants, the proportion of Pell grant recipients in the school, and the proportion of college graduates working in Missouri as teachers, nurses, forces law enforcement, prison officers and social workers.
If the bill passes, the salaries of graduates six and ten years ago would be a major factor in how much the legislature would give to universities and community colleges.
Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Desloge, is sponsoring the bill. In a public hearing on Monday, he told the House Committee on Higher Education that he wants colleges and universities to “do more than just broaden (students’) minds.”
“I want them to be prepared, to be able to find a job where they can take care of their family, their children and for the future, of themselves,” he said.
He said the bill was drafted with help from the nonprofit advocacy group Cicero Action. This group is an offshoot of the Cicero Institute, which aimed to “design market-oriented political systems” and apply them to “failing public sector systems,” according to the group’s website.
The chairman of the board of this organization is Joe Lonsdale, partner of the libertarian founder of PayPal Peter Thiel and co-founder of Palantir, an artificial intelligence data analysis company and defense contractor for the Pentagon. and the US Secret Service.
Jared Meyer, executive director of Cicero Action, said alumni salary data could be collected from Missouri unemployment insurance records and data shared by other states.
According to data provided by Henderson, funding levels at Lincoln University and Harris-Stowe State University, two historically black universities, were among the highest for each graduate in 2020-21 while having some of the median graduate earnings. the lowest two years and 10 years after graduation.
When asked if this bill would create a vicious circle, Meyer said that if these underperforming universities can’t improve other criteria besides graduate earnings, “the money should go where big results are produced”.
Representatives of the nonprofit Council for Public Higher Education and local community colleges have spoken out against the bill.
Paul Wagner, the council’s executive director, said that because this bill only collects salary data from those who attended six and ten years ago, the state would fund universities based on “people who haven’t been on campus for quite a while.”
He said: “What are the options for this institution to improve its score, besides calling people in their late 20s and early 30s, saying, ‘Hey, we need you to go win. more money? “”
Additionally, Wagner raised concerns about the reliability of using state unemployment insurance data. He said tech college students “rarely go out of state” when there are large institutions and metropolitan areas on Missouri’s borders. Also, because the proposal placed a heavy emphasis on graduate earnings, this bill would incentivize universities to “steer people away from those lower-paying fields,” like teaching.