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State Senator Luke Kenley

Change and willingness to change based on sound thinking are ingredients for future success.  Set high standards and keep pursuing them.

 

As chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, Indiana state Senator Luke Kenley has supported outcomes-based funding for over five years. His leadership includes important postsecondary collaboration, state higher education agency consultation and a clear focus on results. 

 

What are your views on the importance of increased college attainment for Indiana’s economy and the quality of life for its citizens?

All studies point to higher earnings as a result of increased college attainment.  The better educated a person is, the more opportunities they have for quality of life.  Education, knowledge, and the application thereof have always been keys to personal and societal progress.

 

As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, you have been a strong proponent of outcomes-based funding.  How has that approach worked so far in Indiana?

Outcomes-based funding is a necessary element for measuring success in higher education, just as performance measurement and accountability are used to measure success in many endeavors.  Set goals, develop a plan to meet the goals, measure your performance against the goals- premises we all accept, even though we may acknowledge opinion differences at varying levels.  To this point, in Indiana, we have already begun to see success in achieving our goals, even though outcomes-based funding is a relatively new phenomenon.  Students, educators, state elected officials charged with funding decisions, and even the public feel good about this measurable success.

 

In what ways are Indiana’s investments in higher education tied directly to state priorities and student needs?

Although state priorities and student needs are considered in every funding decision, two leading examples highlight our efforts: (1) our performance funding segment of the state budget for the universities, which awards cash based on results, achieved on goals set by the Commission for Higher Education  with the assistance of the universities, and approved in our state budget , and (2) our extensive student grant and loan program, which directly rewards the student with sustained grants based on satisfactory progress toward degree completion and higher academic performance.  Each of these efforts have been extensively developed and modified by the Commission, reviewed by all interested groups, and approved by the Legislature, in statute where necessary.  In developing a successful system, a great deal of attention must be paid to the process itself to produce good and acceptable results.  Our use of the Commission as the implementer with input from the universities, and a more general review by the Legislature has proven to be a successful model to accomplish this in Indiana.

 

Looking back on the policy changes that you’ve led related to outcomes-based funding, what advice would you share with others who are interested in pursuing similar objectives?

Many issues, points of view, differences of opinion about performance metrics, turf “wars”, rise to the surface in constructing outcomes based funding models.  There needs to be an implementer with integrity, a plan for developing a system, a forum in which all thoughts can be heard, and participation by the universities.  In the end, all parties have to commit to the goals and the ultimate success of the system.  Easy to say, hard to accomplish.  Commitment to higher performance by political leaders must undergird everyone’s efforts.

 

Looking forward, what type of policy changes (funding related or otherwise) are you considering that you think could have the greatest impact on increasing attainment in Indiana

Looking forward, we must keep sight of our objectives, but be prepared to continually evaluate, change, discuss, and modify our model in light of successes and shortcomings we uncover.  Change and willingness to change based on sound thinking are ingredients for future success.  Set high standards and keep pursuing them.