The Florida Board of Governors on Thursday approved the distribution of $560 million in annual performance funding for 11 state universities, and, as usual, there were winners and losers.
Meeting at the University of Central Florida, the university-system board approved $265 million in state performance funds for eight schools, with three schools at the bottom of the performance list getting shut out. The board also endorsed the distribution of $295 million in “institutional” performance funds for 11 schools. Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school, is not eligible yet.
The total performance funding is $40 million higher than the $520 million in performance funding in the 2017-2018 academic year. Each year, the Legislature approves a set amount of state performance funding for the university system. In addition to the state funds, the universities match the state money with institutional funds that are part of their recurring budgets.
The annual list is based on 10 measurements of performance by each of the institutions, including graduation rates, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs.
This year, due to changes in the performance-funding law, metrics changed from a six-year graduation rate to four years. Another metric was revised to reward schools that serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, reflected by those receiving federal Pell grants.
The University of Florida was at the top of the funding list with $110.6 million, including $57.6 million in state performance funding. Last year, UF received just under $104 million.
But while UF recently moved into the top 10 schools on the U.S. News & World Report list of public universities, several Board of Governors members sharply questioned school officials about a drop in the four-year graduation rate for 2017 from 67.6 percent to 66 percent.
UF Provost Joseph Glover attributed the decline to the inclusion of pharmacy students who are in a six-year rather than a four-year program. Glover and UF President Kent Fuchs said they anticipate the rate rising, with a newly approved accountability plan setting a goal of 68 percent next year and 74 percent for graduates by 2021.
The most dramatic improvement in performance came from Florida International University, which ranked eighth among the 11 schools last year. But this year, FIU moved up to second place, gaining an additional $12.5 million in state performance funds, for a total of $73.7 million, up from $58 million last year.
“We’ve kind of had a fanatical commitment to student success, which I would say is the key,” FIU President Mark Rosenberg said.
FIU is putting a greater emphasis on advising students and helping them find academic pathways that will allow them to graduate on time, Rosenberg said. The school has also stepped up its efforts to provide financial aid, including initiatives aimed at first-generation college students and students from homeless families, Rosenberg said.
FIU was awarded the maximum improvement points in the performance formula for cutting its average cost for students by 6.3 percent over the previous year, for an annual cost of $16,210.
Florida State University, the University of South Florida and the University of West Florida tied for third on the performance list, with FSU winning a tie-breaker based on its total of points for improvement and excellence.
FSU improved in all 10 performance metrics, including achieving a 68.4 percent four-year graduation rate for its 2017 class, the top rate among all of the schools. FSU’s state performance funding increased by $13 million, for a total of $98.7 million.
Losing the tie breaker was costly for the other two schools. The University of South Florida’s state performance funding declined by $7.7 million, for a total of $79.6 million. The University of West Florida’s state funding declined by $10 million, for a total of $23 million.
Losing another tie breaker for sixth place on the performance list was costly for New College of Florida. Last year, the small liberal-arts school earned $2.5 million in state performance funding for the first time. But this year, it moves back to the “bottom three” on the list, meaning it will not receive any state performance money, but it will have $3.9 million in institutional performance funds.
Winning the tie breaker moved Florida Gulf Coast University, which was in the bottom three last year, back on to the money list. It will receive $9.3 million in state performance funding, for a total of $22.7 million in the new academic year.
Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida were the other two schools that will not receive state performance funding after finishing in the bottom three. But FAMU will have $14.8 million in institutional funding and UNF will have $13.6 million.
Board of Governors members said they plan to review the issue of the “bottom three” later this year. And lawmakers in their 2019 session are likely to debate the fact that every year three schools are shut out of state performance funding.
Finishing fourth on the performance list, Florida Atlantic University will see a boost of more than $1 million in its state performance funds, for a total of $43.4 million. At fifth place, the University of Central Florida will have an increase of nearly $2 million in state performance funds, for a total of $79.3 million in 2018-2019.
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