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Murray State Board of Regents: Performance Funding, SARA, More

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Murray State University President Dr. Bob Davies outlined the proposed performance funding model at the Board of Regents meeting Friday. He also discussed potential changes with Kentucky joining the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, or SARA. Other topics included an update on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), building projects and the Presidential Lecture. Here's an overview:

Performance Funding

As a result of House Bill 303 in the 2016 General Assembly, More than $42 million dollars, or 5%, of state appropriation to higher education will go into a performance funding pool for most public universities and community colleges to compete for funding. The measure goes into effect July 1. University leaders and state government officials represented a task force to develop metrics, which then go an education committee to be brought up in the 2017 General Assembly and passage by Governor Matt Bevin. Davies has said in the past that the work group is "preseason" and that the legislature and governor could accept, alter or scrap the proposal. If the work group had not made a proposal by the December 1 deadline, the state legislature could have re-appropriated the 5% however they wanted.

Proposed metrics place an emphasis on STEM+H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, plus Health) degrees and degrees earned by low-income and underrepresented populations; course credits and the size of facilities. (Underrepresented refers to students of color: African American, Latino, Native American, Asian and multi-racial - not including international students).

Ultimately, the goals include increasing retention and progression of timely Bachelor's degree production, increasing the number of degrees earned, growing degrees in STEM+H fields and closing achievement gaps in degrees earned by low income and underrepresented minority students. The pool puts all public four-year universities in a single pool (and community colleges in a similar pool). Kentucky State University was exempt for FY 2018, but will join in the following year.

The proposal includes an adjustment for 'small schools' like Murray State. There is also a 'hold harmless' clause to prevent funding loss for one year, followed by 'stop loss' provisions to prevent potential losses greater than a couple percentage points. The metrics would be revisited in a formal review every three years.

Universities will compete based on three year rolling average percentages noting percentage change of total (market share) and gain in performance better than average (increase market share). Student success will attribute 35%, student credit hours 35%, operational funds 30%.

Here's how this breaks down: Student success is the number of Bachelor's degrees, number of degrees in STEM+H specifically, number of degrees earned by low income students, number of degrees earned by underrepresented students, and student progression with markings for every 30, 60, 90 credit hours.

Credit hour production is "credits earned" weighed by level of credit (100, 200, etc) and academic discipline.

Campus operations are the maintenance based on the university's share of square footage of facilities for academic purposes and academic support functions.

Davies said he's pleased with the 'totality' of the proposal given that it was a compromise to fit schools small and large. "In all the metrics, in all the measures, we do perform very well relative to our peer universities. There's things we need to continue to work on and we'll do that."

Comparatively, Davies says Murray State is in comparatively good shape by percentage, outperforming other universities in most of the categories some exception.

MSU is working to improve the number of degrees from underrepresented students, Davies said, a comparatively lower number. Regent Dan Kemp says there is an opportunity in growing collaboration with Hopkinsville Community College, which he says has a high percentage of African American students.

The metrics end up being a "zero sum game" for higher ed according to Davies. "We will put in $2.2 million dollars as part of our five percent. Under the current thought process and the current measures, we will gain a little bit but that means that another university is losing that amount."

Davies said performance funding is, in a sense, already in effect as universities will use numbers from this academic year as a guiding factor.

Davies predicts the appropriation percentage will gradually climb to 100%, rising in FY 2019 and FY 2020.

Some concern was raised by Regent Kemp regarding non-STEM+H disciplines (humanities and arts). To this, Davies said the U.S. public higher education system is based on two fundamentals: competition and student choice. He said through those two factors will be an alleviation of concern. Students will choose where they want to go and what they will study, he said. With mechanisms in place for humanities and arts progression, he foresees a strong liberal arts program. Citing a pendulum, he said STEM+H is on the high right now, but 30 years ago there was a strong desire for liberal arts.

CPE will handle the administrative progress of who gets the funds.

Regent Jerry Rhoads said in meeting with legislators on passing the proposed metrics, "We've got to guard against tinkering or the whole thing will fall apart."

Davies said a meeting with Governor Matt Bevin, CPE President Bob King and WKU President Gary Ransdell about performance funding went relatively well. He said Bevin didn't express concerns over particular items, adding "He didn't leave the room and say 'no.'"

Regent Chair Steve Williams warned that ongoing difficulties with the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, now an accreditation issue, could lead to legislation that would ripple out to university boards across the commonwealth.


[Note: Rob Canning contributed to this part.]

Davies is proposing MSU join in on an agreement that allows institutions to have a ‘physical presence’ in other states. Last month, the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, also known as SARA, approved Kentucky to join a network of 43 other states and the District of Columbia. SARA sets national standards for schools looking to offer postsecondary distance-education across state borders. Davies says MSU submitted paperwork for SARA approval earlier this month and while he supports expanding MSU’s horizons, he calls the move a ‘double-edge sword’ for it would allow competing schools to enter Kentucky.

“It allows us to compete and offer programs in other states, it allows us to advertise and have what they call a physical presence in other states. At the same time, it will allow other universities to have a physical presence and offer their programs here in Kentucky as well.”

Davies says without SARA membership, universities offering distance-education programs need to be registered and licensed within the target state.

“If you were doing one in Oregon, you need to be licensed in Oregon, and that’s where the students are. Just because we don’t target Oregon but we have students, for example just hypothetically saying that were taking classes in Oregon, we would actually have to be licensed Oregon or not provided those services.”

FLSA Update

In preparation for the Fair Labor Standards Act (which was set to go into effect December 1, before a federal injunction blocked the measure), approximately 415 positions were reviewed, 225 remain exempt, 135 were reclassified based on duties (these should have been non-exempt to begin with and are now properly classified, according to Davies) and 55 were ruled non-exempt (most of these positions were in the low $30,000 range so even if the ceiling ends up lowering from $47,476 most would still remain non-exempt).

Davies said Murray State was advised by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA) to 'stay the course.' If the injunction is reversed implementation day would still be December 1, 2016. So Murray State would be in compliance. Davies said there's no certainty how long this might take and added that a new labor secretary and new presidential administration might make changes to the rule.

Building & Maintenance 

Work on the Breathitt Veterinary Center is going well. Full possession anticipated in January with occupancy in February. Furniture is being purchased and delivered.

In the engineering and physics building - delays due to weather and electrical work, but progressing. The interior is coming together. New completion date is March 3 with a grand opening scheduled for April.

Biology and Chemistry buildings - work is cautiously optimistic to be complete in Spring.

There has been some issue with Murray State's electrical grid, where relay switches have been having failures largely over student breaks. Whiel issues in the electrical grid remain, engineers are working on the "unique" set of problems. This the number one capital priority at the moment.

The number two priority is the steam issue, where steam has been pouring out around Waterfield Library. There is an issue in the steam distribution system by the library going to the central plant. New boilers, totalling $300,000 will need to be installed. The issue will likely be resolved at the end of January or early February.

Work continues at the Madisonville campus. The projected completion date is November 2017, for Spring 2018 students.

There is an analysis contracted for Springer College in regards to the mold issue. Occupancy may be restored by next fall. Contractors are looking at cracks and separations in the walls. Despite the mold, Springer is in the best mechanical shape between the old residential colleges: Springer, Richmond and Franklin. The long range plan is to eventually raze these buildings, but there is deliberation in restoring the colleges in the short term. Regent Lisa Rudolph expressed concern "buying an expensive teardown" estimated at $750,000. 

Presidential Lecture

March 9 at 8 p.m. "We Have a Dream. Are We Living It?" Davies said the theme is in connection to social tension in the United States. The lecture will feature three distinguished Murray State alumni: Dr. MarTeze Hammonds, Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton and Dr. Walter Bumphus

Other Board Matters of Note

  • The board approved winter graduation: 1,195 degrees from 22 states, 52 Kentucky counties, 14 countries, 40 veterans. Graduation is slightly up from last year's numbers.
  • John Williams Sr. of Paducah was approved to receive an honorary doctorate. He received impassioned recommendations by Regent Susan Guess and others and a standing ovation.
  • The board voted to name an area inside the new engineering and physics building the Dr. Gary W. Boggess Science Resource Center.
  • The provost search continues. Davies said a diverse pool of candidates is "very important." He anticipates the search consultant group will narrow down semi-finalists by late February. Final candidates will come to campus by April and a selection will be made in May. Dr. Renae Duncan continues to serve as acting provost.
  • Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts: The candidate list has been narrowed down to three and being interviewed.
  • Public Safety and Emergency Management will be henceforth known as Murray State University police Department.
Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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