The Montana University System is asking for $30 million in new funds from the Legislature to freeze tuition for the next two years. Legislators can essentially only decide whether or not to give MUS that money–they cannot dictate how it is to be spent; that’s under the purview of the Board of Regents.
However, lawmakers can certainly suggest how they would like to see the money spent. Senator Taylor Brown (R-Huntley) says he is introducing a joint resolution which would request the University System distribute five percent of their budget based on certain performance measures like graduation and retention rates and how long it’s taking students to get degrees. “These are standard measures that are in line with many organizations that compare universities across the nation,” he said.
Brown and other lawmakers are working with the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education on the proposal. Commissioner Clayton Christian says he likes the idea. ““In the future, to be competitive globally, whether it’s in agriculture or you name the market we need more people with a degree,” he said. “That’s what we’re seeking to do and I think this pushes us in that direction.”
The performance-based funds would come out of the $30 million in new money requested by MUS for the next two year budget cycle. Christian says the plan would only be implemented in the second year of that cycle, to give the colleges and universities time to figure out exactly how the system would work. The total amount of the performance-based money comes out to $7.5 million–five percent of the total MUS budget with the added $30 million.
That extra $30 million is still subject to Legislative approval.