Accounting for Higher Education Accountability: Political Origins of State Performance Funding for Higher Education

Despite the popularity of higher education performance funding among policymakers, only half of all states have ever created higher education performance funding systems, and nearly half of these were eventually discontinued.

This article examines the political forces that shaped performance funding policies in eight states. The prevailing perspective is that performance funding is enacted due to efforts by state legislators (particularly Republicans), governors, and business people who pursue performance funding in the name of greater effectiveness and efficiency.

This perspective misses the major role played by state higher education coordinating boards and institutions of higher education—particularly community colleges—that pursued performance funding to secure new funds in an era of tax resistance and criticism of higher education.

The authors describe how policy entrepreneurs mobilized support for performance funding by finding ideological common ground among different groups and taking advantage of political openings to put performance funding onto the decision agenda of state elected officials.

This article is adapted from a portion of the CCRC report The Politics of Performance Funding in Eight States: Origins, Demise, and Change.

The article was published in the Teachers College Record, vol. 115, no. 1.