Laura Diamond reported December 13th in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Newspaper that a new formula will be used to fund colleges and universities in Georgia staring in 2015. The new formula, approved the Higher Education Funding Commission, will be the first step toward the corporatization of higher education in Georgia. Scan the “wordle” that I created based on the text of Laura Diamond’s article. Some key words are funding, percent, number, money, awarded, workforce, fiscal, graduate, outcomes, and performance.
According to the Commission’s report, the amount of money colleges receive will be linked to student success and the number of degrees awarded. The committee appointed by Governor Deal signed off Wednesday on a plan that would make colleges earn or lose money depending on how well they help students get a degree.
The key idea in this report is to tie funding to measurable performances, including retention, progression and graduation, the number of hours students accumulate (e.g. 30, 60, 90), counting the number of students who receive certification or degrees. The report suggests that Georgia should move from an enrollment-based system of funding higher education to a formula determined by outcomes as interpreted by Dave Williams, at the Atlanta-Business Journal. Digging a bit deeper , Williams wrote that the Governor Deal of Georgia has said that the reason for going to college is to get a job. Indeed in one of the Commission’s reports, it is clearly noted that higher education needs to create more job-ready people with some form of higher education. Instead of basing higher education on the public life achieved through democratic values such as equality, justice, and freedom, as suggested by Henry Giroux, Georgia’s higher education will be viewed through the lens of commercial interests and economic goals.
Prior to the formation of the State Commission, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the state a grant of $1 million dollars to study college completion. This is another example of the way in which corporate billionaires are influencing the public education.
Georgia will soon approve an outcomes-based funding model for all higher education institutions in Georgia. Follow this link to an October report of the Commission to find out how education will be measured by corporate-style measures that seem to be in conflict with the public nature of higher education. Some of the concepts that are detailed in the October report include:
- incentivized target populations
- weighting outcomes to reflect priorities
- bonus incentives
- counting outcomes
Although it seems justified to fund higher education on the basis of benchmarks, bonuses, and counting outcomes, the real basis of this movement toward corporatization leads to a blurring of boundaries between commercial culture and public culture. Giroux writes:
Under the reign of neoliberalism and corporate culture, the boundaries between commercial culture and public culture become blurred as universities rush to embrace the logic of industrial management while simultaneously forfeiting those broader values both central to a democracy and capable of limiting the excesses of corporate power.
I think that writers such as Henry Giroux are correct when they warn us that using a corporate measure of time (say for graduating, or progressing) diminishes the role of higher education in pedagogies of contemplation, reflection, and critical thinking. Under the new funding scheme, the bottom line is how much was covered and not uncovered.
Georgia is not the only state to move in this direction, and frankly it’s not surprising. The Assault of Education, which is documented in William H. Watkins’ book of the same title, is a confrontation of the politics of corporate school reform and the legacy of higher education as a public sphere. Watkins comments of what is happening to education at the K-12 level is extremely timely as we consider the future of higher education:
Corporate, privatizer, free-marketeer, “bankster” neoliberal are working feverishly to create a narrative for 21st-century education. Theirs is a story of competition, power, and profit. For them America must produce a layer of highly educated people to operate new technology. Such people must be better educated than any in previous generations because the demands are greater. In their story, America is in a life or death battle to maintain its competitive edge in an increasingly competitive world where it is losing ground to emergent countries. The bogeymen BRICS, that is, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, are closing in on us in the world horse race. For the corporatists, America’s very survival is at stake. The corporate media and other means of information regularly promote this story (Wakins, p. 189).
And then he adds this sentence, which is a challenge to all Georgians who oppose the State’s effort to reduce education to arithmetic. He writes:
The corporatists are challenged at every turn as ordinary people understand the importance of accessible education for both personal and social advancement. The organized resistance to corporate education is expanding as people gain understanding of the corporate agenda (Watkins, 189).
Disclaimer: I am Emeritus Professor of Science Education at Georgia State University (GSU). I was a professor at GSU from 1969 – 2003. The opinions that I share here are my own.
What do you think about the way higher education in Georgia will be funded? Is this the first stage in a radial right turn for higher education?
Tags: Corporatization, critical pedagogy, Education in Georgia, Georgia, Henry Giroux, Higher Education Funding, Performance Indicators