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UW System President Ray Cross, right.

University of Wisconsin System officials are looking to funnel some $43 million to campuses based on how well they hit certain performance metrics, a funding plan that still needs approval from the Legislature’s budget committee before the money can be released. 

The UW Board of Regents approved the proposal in a special meeting Thursday, a vote that came after the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee earlier this summer allocated $45 million extra toward the system but directed officials to submit a plan to the panel about how they’d spend the funds before they could be released. 

Under the plan, most of the $45 million would be put toward performance or outcomes-based funding. The model, which was championed by former Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers, awards funding to campuses based on how well they meet certain metrics across four categories: institutions’ efficiency, workforce contributions, student access and progress in degree completion.

The state Legislature previously allocated $26.25 million for ongoing performance-based funding, which was first distributed to schools last fall.

The system in its budget ask this cycle sought an extra $82.5 million in performance-based funding in 2019-21. But Evers’ plan would have allowed the regents to tap into the existing $26.25 million in performance-based funding to cover pay increases. Any leftover funding would still be used for performance-based funding. 

The GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee rejected both the system’s and Evers’ proposals, instead opting to back a $57 million funding increase, of which $45 million was set aside for the UW System over the two year period for any purpose the system wants.

In order to get that chunk of the money, system officials need to submit a proposal to the panel for approval, before the funding would be transferred to the UW, a measure some Republicans likened to a grant program during budget deliberations. Democrats slammed it as "parental." 

The plan the regents approved allocates $15 million in the first year of the biennium and $30 million in the second year, rather than $22.5 million each year, as the language the Joint Finance Committee approved states.

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In all, nearly $43 million would be sent through the performance-based funding model. Data for the performance outcomes would be plugged into the system’s model in September, and the funding would be sent to schools the following month, per the plan. 

Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, didn’t comment on the regents’ vote Thursday or indicate when the panel will meet again to consider the request. During the committee’s meeting last week, members signaled they could reconvene in August. 

UW System President Ray Cross said during the meeting he had briefed legislative leaders about the plan, and added that “they are pleased with our efforts to put this into an outcomes-based funding model.”

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