KSU’s new funding system has flaws

Kent State administrators have been looking at a new system of funding for its colleges: Responsibility Center Management. Each college would directly receive funding based on its enrollment and student fees, rather than through a university-wide allotment system.

This setup would make it more like the public school system for high schools and elementary schools in Ohio or the national No Child Left Behind Act — and we’ve all seen how well those work.

No Child Left Behind leaves plenty of children behind. They’re just hidden because those schools where students do get left behind will eventually be given less and less money until they — either the students or the schools — disappear.

The idea that underperforming schools would be forced to improve the quality of their teaching to receive more money is a noble one in theory. If schools want more money, they would spend more time educating their students to reach the necessary level of quality. The better their students perform, the more funding they can receive. It sounds like a pretty simple, straightforward performance-based plan.

But it’s not that simple. Most of the schools with major problems already receive less money because they live in poorer areas. These students start out with less, and when they can’t compete, are given even less than the students who already have the means to succeed.

Let’s take it a step further. What if, at the university level, this affects schools that are performing well? What happens to programs that, because of the nature of their discipline, have to be more selective in their enrollment?

Colleges with fewer students would receive a much smaller share. It wouldn’t matter why there were less students in one college as opposed to another. The selective program would be treated just the same as the underperforming one.

The College of the Arts is sure to use just as much, if not more, money than the College of Business Administration. The programs involved in each require different kinds of technology and materials, for which the costs can vary greatly. In addition, the College of the Arts is going to be fairly limited in the amount of students it can accept. Some disciplines can be learned through sheer willpower; others require a level of natural talent. How can those programs that require more raw talent, such as dance, be expected to compete with more academic-based programs such as marketing?

Colleges that underperform will be allotted money from a general fund every department on campus will contribute to. It’s fair to assume, however, that this money will be far less than what the college receives through incremental funding.

Maybe this system hinders those colleges that are large and successful, the ones where classes overflow, such as the College of Arts and Sciences. They could benefit from a performance-based system: The more students they have, the more money they get. The college could use that money to hire more faculty, build new computer labs or recruit more students, which would, in turn, lead to more money.

But those colleges with less students would be held accountable for making up the difference. They could try to increase enrollment, which is difficult when you are already receiving less money to support your current class. Less and less money would mean less resources, which ultimately means the program could effectively support the education of fewer students over time. As enrollment decreased, so would the college’s share of funding. It’s an unending cycle.

One way the departments can supplement this difference, it has been said, is to increase program and course fees, which would put the burden back on the students. Fewer students would be able to afford certain programs, which would draw them away from colleges that would most need the enrollment.

Making people more accountable for their actions is a good thing, but this program can only serve to hurt students at a time when the state is trying to encourage more access to education. Come on, Kent State. Leave competition to the economy — when it comes to education, give every student a fair chance.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.