Florida’s public community and state colleges are now part of the state’s performance funding system. The schools will be ranked according to four metrics that will determine whether they’re eligible for additional state funding.
Florida’s public universities are eligible for additional funding based on performance and now the state’s colleges are too. The State Board of Education okayed a plan to rate colleges based on job placement, starting salaries, continuing education and student retention. Those are the categories approved by the Florida legislature—which controls the dollars. But the board has concerns about how the categories are weighted. The colleges say they’re in place to meet local workforce needs. And board member Andy Tuck says starting salaries should factor more in the schools’ report cards:
“The way you have the categories rated—job placement was rated less than completion rate—can you explain how we came to that?"
But the Department of Education says when it comes to tracking starting salaries, the data is far from perfect. While Florida has a strong tracking system, getting other states to give up information is challenging. There’s a national database, but two key states—Florida’s neighbors Georgia and Alabama, don’t participate. And many Florida graduates reside and work there.
“That being said we’re taking every step possible to get the states to join the data sharing consortium," said DOE's Christopher Mullen. "We’ve moved from 22 to 35. That’s been due to the good conversation we’ve had with other state partners. We’re working really hard to get Georgia and Alabama to join in so we won’t have to worry about this issue moving forward.”
Another gap in the performance funding system is how low-income students fare. It’s a priority for board member Rebecca Lipsey, who asked Education Commissioner Pam Stewart why it didn’t make the list. Stewart says she’ll ask the legislature to put it back.
“It’s certainly the objective of our state colleges, and we need to do everything we can to make sure it’s a fair measure and move it in the direction we want to move it," she said. "The other thing is, as we’re looking as our legislative priorities that could be one the board lists as a priority.”
The Florida legislature approved $40 million for the system. Just as with the universities, the colleges will put up a portion of their base funding, and the state will add more money to the pot .Once the schools are ranked, the dollars will be split among them based on who did the best.