Harris Stowe State, Lincoln Face Uphill Battle for Funding in Missouri

Less than a month after the Missouri Department of Higher Education identified more than 900 degree programs at state colleges and universities classified as underperforming, including 57 out 72 programs at historically black Harris Stowe State University and Lincoln University, the higher education oversight body yesterday authorized new performance based funding standards for schools which could significantly impact academic and campus operations at the state’s two HBCUs.

The two schools could collectively lose more than $2.2 million in 2019 if they fall below standards on graduation rates, student progress towards degrees, post-graduate employment, affordability and operational spending alignment with state industrial needs. The performance-based metrics will account for 10 percent of appropriations given in 2019, and schools would receive 20 percent of the funds for each metric passed.

For all metrics which are not passed, the funds would be returned to the Department for redistribution to address specific problem areas which led to an institution failing any area of measurement.

In its last use of performance-based funding model, HSSU failed four out of five areas of performance, while no other Missouri public institution failed more than one. Officials with the Department attributed Harris-Stowe’s marks to its mission of enrolling and graduating academically underserved and non-traditional students. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In general, a Harris-Stowe student comes from a low-income family and attended a low-performing high school, and, as a consequence, the climb to college is typically much harder. But for all those same reasons, Harris-Stowe and schools like it have been viewed as perhaps the best hope of delivering an education to those who need it most.

The school — formed after the all-white Harris Teachers College merged with the all-black Stowe Teachers College in 1954 — has been among the most accessible higher-education options for students in urban St. Louis. And its teaching college has long supplied St. Louis Public Schools with much of its faculty.

It’s a school with a significant number of so-called nontraditional students — students who didn’t go to college immediately after high school but later decide to pursue a degree.

Nontraditional students typically take a meandering path toward earning a degree, transferring from one school to another, and often not finishing within six years.

Transfer students and students who don’t finish in six years are not counted in a school’s official graduation statistics — wreaking havoc on the statistical performance of institutions such as Harris-Stowe that enroll large numbers of nontraditional students.

In November, a majority of the two HBCUs’ academic programs were cited for underperformance in annual degrees awarded, connectivity to Missouri industry

Several other HBCU states, including Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Oklahoma, use performance-based funding models. Former Lincoln President Kevin Rome discussed the funding issue in a 2016 interview.