The devil is in the details. In a follow-up to the piece yesterday about Lumina grants to improve higher education, it looks like for some states the changes spurred by the grant may be complicated. Texas, one of the states to receive a portion of the $9.1 million Lumina money is debating how to improve higher education funding, without taking existing money away from schools. According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News:

Gov. Rick Perry and key Texas lawmakers, for example, have voiced support for an overhaul of higher education funding. But others have bucked the concept because it could mean fewer state dollars for institutions that serve a large number of low-income, first-generation college students, like those in San Antonio.

All of this has to do with how Texas funds higher education. The goal is to tie finding to encourage successful programs. Realistically, if 30 students enroll in a class, less than 30 will successfully complete the class and certainly less than 30 will graduate from the institution. Now, funding is determined based on enrollment 12 days after class begins. According to the article:

During the past legislative session, the Coordinating Board shopped a proposal to tie state dollars to the number of students who complete a course, whether they pass or fail, and to the number of graduates the institution produces, no matter where they began their education.

The trouble is that a change in the funding formula might reduce the money institutions receive. Even if the state believes that changing the funding formula will ultimately increase the number of students who receive degrees, in the short term many public colleges that have calculated that they will actually lose money.

The Alamo Colleges, the community colleges in the San Antonio area, for instance, have determined that the system could lose $7 to $14 million a year with a new funding structure.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer