Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

University Performance Standards Get Another Look; by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

University Performance Standards Get Another Look; by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Article excerpt

Byline: The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE -- The House is taking another look at performance standards for state universities, after supporters of some schools, including Florida A&M University, say they are being shortchanged in a system that denies extra funding to the "bottom three" universities.

Currently, universities compete annually for a pot of state performance money that is awarded after the schools are ranked by the system's Board of Governors on 10 measurements, including a six-year graduation rate, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs.

The funds totaled $245 million this academic year. And the money can provide a significant boost to schools that qualify. The University of Florida, which topped the rankings, earned $55 million.

The top schools split the money based on a formula, but the bottom three do not receive any state performance funds. Florida Polytechnic University, the state's newest school, does not yet participate.

Finishing in the bottom three meant FAMU, which earned $11.5 million in 2016-2017, and Florida Gulf Coast University, which earned $8 million, as well as the University of North Florida, did not receive any state performance funds this year.

On the other hand, several schools that previously had finished in the bottom three improved their academic performance and moved up in the rankings. The University of West Florida made one of the most-significant moves, earning $21 million in performance funding. New College of Florida, the smallest institution in the system, also qualified for the first time, earning $2.5 million.

But Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat and former FAMU student body president, said the ranking system is unfair, pitting vastly different institutions, like the University of Florida, a major research university, against New College, a small liberal arts school.

"The state university system and how we determine and how we pick winners and losers is a very flawed system," Alexander said, as the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved a major higher-education bill (HB 423) last week.

Alexander said there has been $719 million in state performance funding available over the past four years, but some schools have only received a small share of those funds: FAMU, $17 million; Florida Gulf Coast, $16 million; the University of North Florida, $11 million; and New College, $2.5 million.

"We're picking winners and losers and it's creating a larger and larger and larger gap," Alexander said.

He also said it was unfair to withhold money from the bottom three if they were improving academically yet still trailed the top schools in the performance-funding formula. …

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