Many editorials have exhausted the topic, the “most important election of our time.” With the clock ticking down, leaving us with about 44 days until the country either elects a new candidate, or re-elects the current candidate for a second term, has provided for a huge constellation of theories, think-tanks, conjectures, or gambles as to which candidate, (depending on your political affiliation,) will move the country forward, or turn it around so that it is once again on the correct path.
This is perhaps the most important election of the decade, but not because of the political rhetoric. So many of our political, social, international, educational, constitutional, and religious ideals are at crucially pivotal crossroads.
While I can and have been able to “connect the dots” in so many areas: a grid-locked congress, defaulting entitlement programs including the newly contested health-care mandate, weak foreign policies, and at times, it seems, a disregard for individual and religious rights, the area that most concerns me as an educator, is the slow disembowelment of the traditional educational system, despite some of our nation’s best efforts to keep it intact.
If traditional educational institutions are going to survive, then they must be empowered to compete in an environment where the landscape has changed considerably and not always in the best interests of community colleges and universities. Both candidates have created educational platforms, but I do not believe that they are as exploratory as they should be. It is understandable that education, when mentioned, is always defined in terms of a contrast in numerical standings as defined by our “lack of,” but is this country willing to change its’ course on so many fronts, including authentic educational reform?
Comparison of the traditional base formula, college enrollment rate, and something that I chose to define as the “student model rate” may inadvertently allow higher institutions, or institutions in general, the flexibility to disseminate general state funds that are received through block grants.
Currently, for most postsecondary institutions, the base formula is utilized to determine how state resources are distributed. Student credit hours are weighted by the disciplinary clusters that may have been bundled into an expanded matrix as complied by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. A variety of criteria is considered including, but not limited to cost-effectiveness, relevancy, and the actual necessity of the particular modules in comparison to the number of students requiring the particular service based on either graduation requirements, or career choices as defined by the freshman selection criteria.
If institutions were given the flexibility by the state or Board of Regents to more accurately address the needs of its student population through a student rate model, then maybe it could be one of the solutions to revive life into what is fast becoming a dying institution. By addressing the student model rate, institutions would first have to refer to enrollment data while incorporating other forms of statistical information to determine what the best path of retrieval might be.
Modules or the curricula should be weighted more evenly so that an assessment is done in terms of looking at the number of students enrolled in each of the categories. The particular program that has the majority of student enrollment, (for example, cyber-security which also happens to be a vital area in which traditional institutions are losing a huge portion of their funding dollars and student enrollment to for-profit colleges) should closely look at the socioeconomic, demographics, and ability of the students. Not all of the students in that particular module will require the same set of services in order to successfully complete the requirements for graduation, so the state should allow the universities to create an appropriate matrix for each module, based on whatever baseline happens to be in the best fiscal interest of the institution, say per hundred students.
For each “bundle” of students, funding can be appropriated based on the special service needs of that group on a “sliding scaled” basis. Seniors tend to require more job fair services, intern networking, and specificity based on the near completion of their time-lines as opposed to freshmen. Often times, in a given semester, there are more seniors that might graduate or a greater enrollment of freshmen. Each demographic group tends to require either more or less funding based on an assessment of student needs. If universities are better able to identify and target these needs, then they might be better able to spend less in some areas and more in others, based on a scientific formula that is individualized for the unique needs of that particular institution.
Performance-based funding, economic development, and college-readiness programs are component criteria that usually impacts the manner in which institutions spend their federal appropriations, but if they are given the flexibility to spend less or more and based on the reminder of funds, should be allowed to roll-over credit into the next year, the future might not look so gloomy. Despite the fact that there was only a 25% gain of student enrollment in traditional colleges, versus a 236% increase of enrollment for the for-profit institutions, traditional universities might still be able to “close the gap” or stymy it, so to speak even with the availability of less funding.
This student model rate will work not only for the higher institutions, but also for the Head Start Program. Funding will not automatically be appropriated to the program, because it is an important aspect of Early Childhood Education, but will now be targeted into those areas that will best identify and meet the needs of the targeted group of individuals, thus actually providing the needs-based services that the student’s actually require.
If we are better able to align our services to the groups of individuals, then we might dually be able to impact students’ adequate yearly gain at all levels of education. The United States Secretary of Education stated that a successful educational program should involve five important components: critical thinking, literary and public speaking, collaboration and creativity in problem solving, and civic awareness and engagement. If the Department of Education can work more closely with traditional institutions through creative, collaborative problem solving, then maybe both presidential candidates might be able to explore a more cohesive plan for educational reform.