Florida's Public Universities Push For More Performance Funding

Sep 18, 2014

Credit flbog.edu / Florida Board of Governors

Florida’s public universities will risk more money this year in an effort to convince Florida lawmakers to give them additional funds. The state university system governing board wants the legislature to increase the public university budget by more than $200 million,  half of which would be awarded based on individual schools’ performance.

Earlier this year the Florida legislature agreed to give the public universities an additional $100 million. But that money came with strings. Under a deal with the Florida Board of Governors, the institutions would put up some of their base funding. If the school failed to meet certain performance benchmarks, it would lose those dollars. If it succeeded, it could keep its money, and qualify for a slice of the $100 million, called performance funding. Board of Governors CFO Tim Jones says the Board wants to increase those performance dollars.

“First priority is our performance funding. We’re looking for an additional $100 million of new recurring funds for next year, equal to the amount of funds we received this year," he says.

While the request for performance-based funds is increasing, so is the risk to the universities. This time the universities will be asked to put up even more money. But the funds are guaranteed which worries some university presidents. But Board member Norman Tripp says he doesn’t understand the concern.

“If you’re taking the performance funding, then you recognize what you need to do to better yourself," Tripp says. "If you don’t make any change, then you take the risk, but otherwise, you should be able to improve your position.” 

The universities agreed to the deal because they had to convince lawmakers the system as a whole is producing some return on investment. The metrics-based evaluation system is now in place, and the budget hold-back requirements are a part of that, says Board member Tom Kuntz.

“We got a hundred million in new money, and we’re asking for a hundred million more in new money. And that funding wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for some base money at risk. So it’s the price we pay to get a lot more funding that we wouldn’t have had.”  

In all, the state university system is requesting about $4.3 billion to fund 12 schools. The state is currently running a budget surplus of $336 million, and the universities will have to compete with other groups and priorities for funding.