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Florida Universities Cash In On New Performance Funding

The board overseeing Florida’s public universities doled out $20 million in extra funding to the schools Thursday.  The legislature allocated the money as additional performance-based funding, but some university officials say three performance measures used to allocate those dollars, don’t go far enough.

The only school not getting performance funding is Florida Polytechnic University, because it’s not yet open for business. All others will receive between $870,000 to more than $2.6 million. The money each school gets is based on how well their students do in terms of employment, wage and cost. But the formula used only accounts for students employed in the state of Florida, and for schools like Florida A&M University the University of West Florida—that’s a problem:

 “We’re 11 miles from Alabama. Thirty percent of our students are military related. That means we’re educating a great number of our students who can’t stay in Florida, and they’re getting good degrees and it’s helping their careers," says UWF President Judy Bense.

Bense says many of her students leave Florida and those out-of-state employees are hard to follow, but Board of Governor's member Mori Housseini says, the group is working on it:

“We’re working with the   Governors’ office, that’s where the issue is, and just trying to get them to understand and negotiate  that.”

University Presidents are also taking issue with the cost factor: which looks at tuition rates. For research-intense universities, like Florida State and the University of Florida, which are focusing more on science and technology based programs, that’s a problem: Because the so-called STEM areas tend to cost more, which negatively affects their affordability scores.

And Board members are also looking into increasing the number of criteria that make-up the new performance based funding structure. Board member Tom Kuntz says the three measures in place now don’t tell an accurate picture of how the schools are doing:

“I’m a little worried about this because, that’s why I like the 10 metric process, because we’re going to end up with a better way to look at true performance," he says.

The Board of Governors plans to ask lawmakers for $50 million in performance-based funding for the schools during the upcoming legislative session. That’s money in addition to the university’s base funding. Along with the planned increase in performance funding, the group also wants legislators to approve more metrics in the formula that will be used to evaluate the universities.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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