Always Be Graduating or; This State’s Colleges Earn State Funding — but How They Do it Will Blow Your Mind

“ABC! Always be closing! AIDA. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention — do I have your attention? Interest — are you interested? I know you are because it’s f–k or walk. You close or you hit the bricks! Decision — have you made your decision for Christ? And action. A-I-D-A; get out there! You got the prospects coming in; you think they came in to get out of the rain? Guy doesn’t walk on the lot unless he wants to buy. Sitting out there waiting to give you their money! Are you gonna take it?”

Long before Alec Baldwin was having sass contests with Tina Fey and leaving unfortunate voice mails, he delivered those lines as a part of a now famous scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, a film about four real estate salesmen dealing with the stress of making sales in various ways. Baldwin’s character is brought in to motivate the salesmen toward making bigger sales more often.

Last year, the Ohio state government gave the publicly funded universities a similar speech, though with admittedly less flash. State funding, traditionally based on enrollment, was now to be decided by how many students a school successfully graduated. Always Be Graduating.

Reaction to the change in funding has been mixed. Those in support of the change have championed the idea that performance based funding will ultimately force universities that allow anyone through the doors to tighten their admissions policies. They also say it will discourage colleges from tolerating students who flounder from major to major without making much progress toward a degree.

The opposition — and there is much in the higher education community — fear the change focuses too much on the bottom line and not enough on the quality of the product; you, the student. Their fear is rooted in the idea that if funding is tied to graduation, college administrations will pressure their faculty — especially adjuncts and untenured full timers — to lower their academic standards to ensure students cruise through the program in four years.

As with most things, both funding models have their upsides as well. If funding is based on performance, it removes a college’s incentive for scheduling classes in such a way that forces students to stay an extra semester to finish one or two upper division classes for their major. That of course is just an example — we can’t think of any college that has ever participated in that kind of activity.

Performance based funding encourages colleges not to tolerate students who see school as more of a seven year life experience as opposed to a four year gauntlet. This is good for the state, of course, as the quicker people graduate the less state and federal funding has to be allocated to universities.

On the flip side, enrollment based funding is sort of like a clickbait article. The headline seems really promising and enticing — come on in! Challenge yourself against your peers! Grow and have all sorts of life experiences, discover yourself, discover your passions! Let us be the guides to the Best Years of Your Life!

Then you click the link — enroll — and it turns out things aren’t as glossy as may have been promised. The first two years feel like a rehash of your high school coursework since keeping enrollment up means letting as many people in as possible, and that requires a low bar.

But then what can be said of making higher education available to as many people as possible? Isn’t a workforce full of college graduates a stronger workforce than a workforce without? Isn’t it worth the extra money and time to ensure that we provide a means of class mobility for the less fortunate through accessible higher education?

You see the rub.

So what is the best way to justify to the state that a college deserves funding?

We certainly don’t know. If we did we wouldn’t be writing for a college newspaper, we’d be consulting with the government.

What we do know is this; the downside to each model is hinged on the idea that when faced with adversity, college administration and faculty will buckle and sacrifice their integrity for the sake of funding.

So let’s all make a pact. Students, we’re going to start respecting that our professors and their bosses have higher powers breathing down their necks at all times and their sole purpose on this planet is not exclusively tied to our goals and issues. Faculty — you keep the dream alive. Administration — don’t sell us out.

That ought to do it.