By Jeffrey Pierre
The state’s public universities will now have its state funding scrutinized and re-assessed after an incentive and performance based model was recently passed by the Board of Governors. Each university could essentially lose up to 3 percent of its funding if the school fails to receive at least 26 points in a 50-point system designed to grade schools performances.
Concurrent with the approval of this new program, the BOG has asked the Florida Legislature for $50 million in new funding. The universities that score above 25 will receive their predetermined share of the funding. The BOG allocates approximately $6 to $7 million out of the $50 million for Florida International University.
Accompanying this request to the legislature, BOG proposes to take $50 million out of the universities’ base budget, which amounts to about 3 percent of each school’s individual budget.
Any university that scores above 25 on the 50 point scale will have this 3 percent reduction restored while the universities that score below 25 will have only 2 percent restored to their base budget. In the case where all universities score above 25, then the three lowest scoring universities will lose 1 percent of their base budget.
The money loss from the low scoring universities will be redistributed to the higher scoring universities based on their total scores.
Board of Governors Chair Mori Hosseini and State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser III, both recently elected to BOG, are quarterbacking this new strategy that they believe will “laser-focus the board” in three critical areas: funding, quality and systems synergy.
“Our board has developed a performance funding model that will incentivize quality by assessing items like retention rates, graduation rates, and post-graduation success as well as providing university-specific metrics targeted to each institution’s distinct mission,” said Hosseini in the State of the System address on Jan 16.
In this new performance model, the board has adopted 10 metrics to grade schools where each of the 12 institutions will be evaluated on their level excellence and in the case where the school is not in a state of excellence, they will then be graded on their level of improvement. The school’s level of improvement or standard excellence can each receive up to five points, making each category or metric worth up to five points. Of the 10 categories, seven will be identical with the 12 institutions with three institution-specific metric left to each university to determine. In some cases, nine will be the same with one institution-specific metric left to the university.
The one — or two, in FIU’s case — institution-specific metric will allow each university to craft a tailored performance test that will directly correspond to the schools individual identity and vision.
For example, a multicultural and international institution like FIU will be graded on the number of minority students who receive bachelor’s degrees. The FIU’s Board of Trustees also chose to evaluate the school’s ability to guide students to graduation without excess hours or classes. This put the pressure on advisors to steer students on the right path, according to their respective majors.
Some statewide metrics that the university will be graded on are the percent of graduates employed and/or furthering their education, the median average full-time wage of graduates employed one year after graduation, average cost per undergraduate degree, six year graduation rate, academic progress rate and percent of undergraduates with a Pell Grant.
The Board of Governors placed an emphasis on the metric concerning the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas of strategic emphasis, especially in science, technology, engineering and medicine.
Hosseini called on schools to conduct a “stress test” to determine whether each university is financially resilient and could perform in today’s challenging environment. Programs that fail to produce jobs for students after graduation will be subject to inspection and could even be closed.
In a memorandum released on Jan. 20 by President Mark B. Rosenberg and Provost and Executive Vice President Douglas Wartzok, they identified 14 programs at the University that BOG classify as “low production.” The list included a bachelor’s in statistics, a master’s in African-American studies, fine/ studio arts, liberal arts and sciences, physics and a doctorate in dietetics and social work.
The Board of Governors expects the results of the each Board of Trustees stress test and review by the fall of 2014.
“The new measures are really directed towards students being successful,” said Wartzok.
But concerns arise in the implementation and execution process of the program.
Low performing schools will be penalized by losing funding.
Wartzok said taking money away from the low performing universities will have an adverse effect, as those schools will likely never improve and continue to lose money.
Wartzok’s biggest objection to the performance model though is that there is only one level of excellence defined for every university.
“Every university does not have a student profile like the University of Florida,” said Wartzok.
He explained that institutions should not be expected to perform at the same level of excellence as schools like UF. FIU is unique in that it is a large commuter school, which sets it apart in how the school achieves compared to other universities.
“Many of our students work. They take longer to graduate,” said Stephen Sauls, vice president of Governmental Relations.
The University could thus be penalized.
Ultimately, each public university will be faced with the challenge to excel and be rewarded, or conversely, perform below acceptable standards and be punished.
But leaders like Sauls choose to focus less on the punishment and more on the students.
“We’re trying to do better all the time,” said Sauls. “We want to help them get the courses they need and the counseling they need to be successful and finish their degree.”