Good Reviews Mean More Money For Universities

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Like students waiting for their professors to post final course grades, Florida universities will learn this week how well they did on their annual performance reviews, entitling them to a share of a record $245 million in state performance funding.

University leaders have pretty much known since the spring how the performance funding list will shake out.

But the university system’s Board of Governors, which is meeting at the University of South Florida, will approve the final list on Thursday, distributing the money to eight of the 11 eligible institutions based on their performances through the 2014-15 academic year. Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school, is not yet part of the program.

Three universities will not qualify for new state performance funding in the budget year that starts July 1: Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida.

UNF did not receive new state performance funding last year, but Florida A&M, which received $11.5 million last year, and Florida Gulf Coast, which received $8 million, will not qualify for shares of the $245 million program in the 2017-18 academic year.

The University of West Florida, which did not receive state performance funding last year, will qualify for a share, as will New College of Florida, which has never qualified for the money since the current funding model began in 2014-15.

“This is the first time we’re receiving performance funding and it feels great,” Donal O’Shea, president of New College, told the Board of Governors.

The allocation of the state funding, which the Legislature increased by $20 million this year, is based on 10 measurements of performance by each of the 11 institutions, including a six-year graduation rate, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs.

The funding model has faced some controversy as it represents an attempt to measure annual performance in a system that ranges from major research universities with national aspirations to smaller regional schools with a more Florida-oriented focus. It measures one of the largest public schools in the country, the University of Central Florida, with more than 60,000 students, and New College, which has less than 900 students.

One of its most controversial aspects is that the three lowest-scoring schools do not receive new state performance funding.

But all 11 schools scored enough points to retain their shares of $275 million in institutional performance funding that they contribute, bringing total funding for the program to $520 million in the new budget year.

Two of the schools that will not receive state performance funding are regional universities with similar challenges.

“We are unabashedly a regional university, with a national reputation for serving students in the region,” University of North Florida President John Delaney said.

UNF, like Florida Gulf Coast, scored poorly in its six-year graduation rate, 53 percent, and the measure of new students who return for a second year with at least a 2.0-grade point average, 75 percent.

Delaney said one of the challenges for many UNF students is that they also work, and students working three or more days a week while trying to attend college full-time find it “difficult to get through.”

Delaney and Florida Gulf Coast leaders said many of their students start at the regional universities but later transfer to larger research schools, like the University of Florida, hurting the regional schools’ completion rates.

Florida Gulf Coast was also hurt by a new measure that assesses the net cost for a student to attend a school, offsetting tuition, fees and other costs with scholarships and other financial support. FGCU had the highest cost of $18,790 among the 11 schools.

New College had the lowest cost of attendance, at $5,920, helping it rise out of the bottom three schools in the performance measurement system for the first time.

Florida A&M fell into the bottom three on the performance list by not sustaining significant improvements in its measurements. Last year, FAMU was rewarded with higher points for improvements in areas like the six-year graduation rate and the rise of median salaries for graduates.

H. Wayne Huizenga Jr., a member of the Board of Governors, said although FAMU is a top-rated historically black university, it needs to be doing more to help students, who currently have a 41 percent six-year graduation rate, the lowest in the system.

“You’re the number one HBCU (historically black college or university), but you’re the lowest performing university in the state. Aspire for more, please,” Huizenga said.

Larry Robinson, Florida A&M’s interim president, said the school has embarked on an aggressive campaign to attract higher-performing students and is in the process of hiring a new academic coordinator to focus on increasing graduation and retention rates.

At the other end of the performance funding list, the University of South Florida has joined the University of Florida and Florida State University among the top three, which will get a slightly large share of the $245 million in performance funding.

University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft also announced that her school is expected to join Florida State and UF as state-designated “pre-eminent” institutions in the coming year, qualifying it for additional funding next year.

In the new budget, those three universities and the University of Central Florida will share $52 million in pre-eminent and “emerging” pre-eminent funding as well as their shares of the performance funding pool.

But even for the three schools that will not qualify for state performance funding in the new year, they still will receive additional funding because of a major university budget increase provided by the Legislature, including $121 million to help schools attract top-level faculty and to reward high-performing business, law, and medical schools.

The News Service of Florida’s Lloyd Dunkelberger contributed to this report.

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