Beginning in the 2014 fiscal year, Maine instituted at its seven public universities an “Outcomes Based Funding Model (OBFM).” The intent of this funding model was to link higher education funding to performance rather than enrollment, and performance was to be defined by the following metrics:
- Degrees awarded—additional points awarded for community college transfer students, adults over age 30 earning degrees, and Pell Grant recipients
- Degrees in STEM, Allied Health, and other high priority fields
- Number of research grants and contracts received during the year
- Dollar value of research grants and contracts received during the year
- Number of degrees awarded per $100,000 of net tuition and fee revenues and State Education and General appropriations scaled by matriculated FTE (“Performance-Based Funding”)
The funding will be implemented in 5% increments until “30% of base funding is allocated based on performance” (“Performance-based Funding”).
These metric reflect those articulated in the University of Maine’s 2013 assessment of their “Outcomes-Based Funding Model.” The University of Maine identified the following priorities that could be used to define what “outcomes” should be assessed in making funding calculations.
- Increase the education attainment levels of the working-age population of the State
- Meet the workforce needs of Maine employers
- Contribute to the economic development of the State
- Improve the productivity of UMS institutions (p. 5)
The state would appear to have drawn their metrics, at least the broad outline, from this 2013 report.
Similar outcomes-based models have been or are in the process of being instituted in 34 states. These funding models may motivate higher education in Maine and elsewhere to develop strategic plans and the associated infrastructure to encourage students to complete their degrees in 4 years, improve university access among traditionally disenfranchised or under-iincentivizedgroups, and encourage degrees—and one would assume programs—in “high priority fields,” such as the health care professions in Maine.
In one sense, this funding model may encourage universities and colleges to educate a diverse population to pursue important careers in Maine and elsewhere. However, in another sense, these metrics may have a chilling effect on programs in the humanities, and English Studies in particular. As noted in the University of Maine’s report, this funding model would affect only a small portion of most public universities’ operating budgets; however, as more of the state’s funding is allocated using these metrics, the more significant the impact on non-STEM majors.
Seeming to dismiss the ample evidence provided in reports by the NCTE, NEA, and AAC&U, the developers of this model could be guilty of perpetuating the misguided assumption that the humanities, and liberal arts, have no relationship to important job and life skills. Encouraging more visible funding for the liberal arts may be one way to advocate for these degrees and the important cultural counter-narratives they can provide, narratives that may help broaden our definition of success and career.
 See Jones (2013) “Outcomes-Based Funding: The Wave of Implementation” for an explanation of the importance of using “outcomes-based” rather than “performance-based” funding.