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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: The Formula for Collegiate Success

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If Arkansas is to improve and sustain economic growth, we must double our number of college graduates by 2025. This was a challenge I set forth to the General Assembly in January, and this past week I signed important legislation that will help achieve this goal.

Act 1203 changes the formula that funds our colleges and universities and places a greater emphasis on student progress and degree completion. Within six years, a quarter of state funding to institutions of higher learning will be tied to student achievement, rewarding institutions for performance and not just enrollment.

In the past, we have funded our colleges and universities using a formula based largely on the number of students enrolled at the beginning of a semester. In 2009, we modified that formula to include end-of-term enrollment, with the goal of keeping more students in school long enough to earn their degrees. The changes enacted this week represent an even bigger step toward promoting accountability and efficiency at state-supported colleges and universities.

Another important effort in producing more graduates is minimizing the need for remedial education. Students who enroll in remedial courses are far less likely to graduate with a degree than students who don't need remediation. Some of these students quit school in frustration because they don't make progress. Others drop out because they fear that a lack of academic preparation will make a college degree an even costlier and more difficult endeavor.

We've already made changes to our high-school curriculum to better prepare our students before they ever arrive on a college campus. Now, we are also giving our higher-education institutions more help to address the needs of students who are not prepared when they get to college. I signed two pieces of legislation this session that will improve remediation efforts in Arkansas.

One new law will help place students who need minor remediation into credited courses sooner, allowing them to more quickly make progress toward their degree and increasing their odds of achieving it. The second will direct students who need more remediation to complete a program of study that prepares them for college courses before they get to campus, rather than putting time and money into remediation at the institution that never leads to a degree.

While increased degree production is the ultimate goal of this new legislation, academic standards will not be sacrificed. It will take collaboration and cooperation to ensure that we not only have a more educated populous, but a better educated one. Arkansas has made significant strides throughout our educational system over the last several years, from pre-kindergarten to higher-ed to career-readiness services. To encourage continuing education for Arkansans, we have increased options for financial-aid and streamlined access to those funds. However, we must now ensure that these opportunities produce graduates with college degrees who are prepared to thrive in 21st-century jobs. It will mean better lives for our citizens, and a better future for our state.


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