WTCS Budget Priorities Included
in Governor’s Budget Bill
Governor Walker announced his 2017-19 Biennial State Budget proposal at the Capitol on February 8, with technical colleges in a strong starting position as the Legislative budget process begins. The following is a budget update with additional details on the Governor’s budget proposals that directly affect technical colleges.
The Joint Finance Committee has announced plans to hear agency testimony on the budget during the last week of March. In April, the Committee will hold a series of six budget hearings around the state to gather public input on budget provisions. Dates and locations have not yet been announced.
General Aid for Technical Colleges. The budget bill would provide $5.0 million annually above base level funding of $88.5 million (for a total of $93.5 million in 2017-18 and $93.5 million in 2018-19) for state general aid for technical colleges. The WTCS budget request was for $5.0 million in 2017-18 and $10.0 million in 2018-19 (for a total of $98.5 million in 2018-19) for this purpose.
Permanent 30% Cap on Outcomes Based Funding. The bill would specify that the current distribution of general aid, 70% through the statutory formula and 30% through the outcomes based formula, would continue in 2017-18 and thereafter. While the Legislature has twice approved the 70/300 split in the last two budget cycles, the Governor twice vetoed the 30% cap. The WTCS budget request was to reinstate the 30% cap.
Wisconsin Grants for Technical College Students. The bill would increase funding for Wisconsin Grants (WG-TCS) by $708,500 in 2017-18 and $1,173,800 in 2018-19 (for a total of $20,006,400 in 2017-18 and $20,471,700 in 2018-19). These amounts constitute a 4.9% increase over the base year doubled. The UW grant appropriation and the private colleges and universities’ grant appropriation were each increased by the same percentage, even though those programs are already fully funded. Meaning, the WTCS program will continue to have a substantial wait list of thousands of students who receive no funding, while the other two programs will likely be permitted to increase the amount of the grants received by their students.
Technical College Set-Asides under the Fast Forward Program. The bill expands the list of eligible uses of Fast Forward funds under the Department of Workforce Development to include: (a) collaborative projects between technical colleges, businesses, and K-12 to provide high school students with industry-recognized certifications in high demand fields as defined by DWD; (b) grants for programs that train teachers and that train individuals to become teachers, including teachers in dual enrollment programs; (c) grants for the development of public-private partnerships designed to improve workforce retention through employee support and training; (d) grants to nonprofits, colleges and universities, and employers to increase the number of students placed with employers for internships; and (e) grants to community-based organizations for public-private partnerships to create and implement a nursing training program for middle school and high school students. “Dual enrollment” would be defined to mean a program for high school students to gain credits in both technical college and high school, including transcripted credit program or other programs provided by contract between a technical college and school district. “Teacher” would include a technical college instructor.
In addition, DWD would be required to allocate not less than $5.0 million in 2017-18 for grants to technical colleges for (a) the programs described above under (a) through (e); (b) grants to technical colleges under the current law Fast Forward program to train unemployed and underemployed workers and incumbent employees of businesses in the state.
Universal Credit Transfer Agreement. The bill would increase from 30 to 60 the number of general education credits that are transferable between and within the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System, beginning in 2018-19. Credits for the specified courses included in the universal credit transfer agreement must be accepted and satisfy general education requirements. Under the bill, core general education courses completed by high school students enrolled through the new Early College Credit program (created under the bill, formerly known as Course Options/Youth Options) would also be included in the agreement.
Changes to the Outcomes Based Funding Formula. The bill would modify the current law outcomes based funding formula (called “performance funding” in the bill language) to eliminate the current distribution method beginning in 2018-19, while keeping the 10 criteria for funding specified under the law. The bill would replace the current law formula--approved by the Joint Committee on Finance--with a formula that instead would: (a) be based on one year of data, rather than three years of data; (b) require funding be based on all 10 criteria, rather than seven of 10 criteria selected by the college; and (c) mandate the amount of funding allocated to each category.
Criteria would be weighted as follows: (1) 10.5% of the appropriation ($9,821,200) based on “affordability and attainability,” meaning the current dual enrollment and credit for prior learning criteria; (2) 10.5% ($9,821,200) based on “workforce readiness,” meaning job placement rate, credentials awarded in high demand fields, programs with industry-validated curriculum, and workforce training provided to businesses and individuals; (3) 3% ($2,806,000) based on “efficiency,” meaning participation in collaboration and efficiency initiatives; and (4) 6% ($5,612,100) based on “student success in state workforce,” meaning Adult Basic Education (ABE) success, ABE transitions to skills training, and services to special populations. The bill would require approval by the Secretary of the Department of Administration prior to the new formula’s implementation.
The new titles are based on the new UW performance formula that is created under the bill. The allocation of funding, while similar in concept to the UW proposal, varies from that model and appears intended to emphasize dual enrollment over technical colleges’ core workforce training mission. After less than three years of implementation, the current WTCS OBF formula is a nationally recognized model, created with stakeholder input and support, and has been tested and proven to be successful—so far producing increases of 11% in industry-validated degrees; 13% in workforce training; and 27% in dual credits. Abandoning the current model’s basis in three years of data would introduce significant volatility in year-to-year funding levels for individual colleges.
Tuition and Materials Fee Freeze. The bill would freeze technical college tuition and materials fees at the 2016-17 level. The System Board has long prioritized affordability and access when setting tuition, allowing increases of only 1.5%, 2%, and 3% over the past three years. WTCS Student Government has supported increased financial aid and opposed tuition freezes, for the 2017-19 budget as well as the prior budget. Among their many reasons for opposing the freeze, students: worried that reduced revenues could threaten student opportunities, cutting services and classes should the freeze remain in place over the long-term. A tuition freeze imposed on local colleges has no fiscal impact on the state budget.
Reduced In-District Tuition Rate. The bill would allow district boards to charge students who reside in the district uniform tuition and material fees that are less than the tuition and material fees established by the System Board. This provision would appear to encourage the colleges to compete rather than collaborate, and could lead to pressure at the local level to unnecessarily duplicate programs in order to provide lower prices to local students.
Shared Services—IT. The bill would require all servers used by executive branch agencies, except the UW System, to be physically located at the state facility on Femrite Drive in Madison. The Department of Administration (DOA) would then be permitted to charge WTCS fees for locating the servers in their facility. Based on the Administration’s shared services plan from the 2015-17 budget, DOA could then charge fees estimated at $800,000 annually before allowing WTCS to access the student data housed on those servers, in order to generate the many reports currently required by law and administrative code. The System would be forced to loosen data security protocols, and expose large databases to Internet hacking, rather than accessing and analyzing information internally on a closed system.
Create a Performance Funding Report Card. The bill would require a performance funding “report card,” based on the report card created for UW under the bill, and in addition to the WTCS outcomes based funding report that has been required under current law for three years. The “report card” for each college must be a single page, and do all of the following: (a) summarize the college’s performance in the prior year on the 10 outcomes criteria, and any other metrics specified by the System Board; (b) compare the performance of the college with the performance of other colleges; and (c) include any additional information the System Board may require, including information from the new accountability report. The bill would require each college to update the report card at the end of each semester and to “prominently link” to the evaluation from the college’s homepage. It should be noted that it is not currently possible to update this data on a semester basis. Although the currently required outcomes based funding report is retained under the Governor’s bill, the report would be sent to the Secretary of Administration under the bill, rather than to Joint Finance as under current law.
Create an Accountability Report. The bill would require that annually by December 31, the System Board submit an accountability report to the Governor and to the Legislature, and require that the report include all of the following information for each technical college, and for the System as a whole: (a) for each program that awards a diploma or degree, the program graduation rate, total number of graduates, the time needed for graduation, retention rates, and job placement of graduates; (b) the percentage of residents and nonresidents who reside in this state 10 years after graduation; (c) the number of degrees, diplomas, and certificates awarded in high-demand fields according to the outcomes based funding formula; (d) financial reports prepared using generally accepted accounting principles; (e) a profile of enrolled students, including mean per capita family income, the percentage of residents and nonresidents who are low-income, the percentage of residents and nonresidents who are members of minority groups, the number of transfers from other institutions of higher education within this state, a description of any improvements made in the transfer of credit between institutions of higher education, the number of high school pupils who have earned credit, the published cost for resident students and the actual cost for resident students once financial aid is subtracted, and increases in available institutional financial aid for students with demonstrated need; (f) for the collegiate transfer program, the extent of access to courses required for “popular undergraduate majors,” improvements in overall student experience, efforts to close the achievement gap between majority and underrepresented minority students, the number of students participating in internships or cooperative work experiences, and post-graduation success; (g) a profile of the faculty, including faculty teaching loads, success or failure in recruiting and retaining teachers, and teachers who are rated at the top of their fields; (h) partnerships and collaborative relationships among technical colleges and employers, state and local governments, or school districts; and (i) the goals, results, and budget for each program for which the Board has awarded an incentive grant under the categorical block grant and a summary of this information.
It should be noted that the WTCS and the technical colleges are currently required by statute or administrative code to publish many of the data elements required above--such as the annual outcomes based funding report, the annual graduate outcomes report, triannual grant reporting, and annual college financial reports prepared using GAAP accounting--which renders this report duplicative. However, the remaining elements would either be prohibitively expensive or impossible to collect or measure. No definitions of terms such as “popular undergraduate majors,” “overall student experience,” or faculty “rated at the top of their fields” are provided.