Fla. Unveils Rating System for Its Universities Based on Cost, Number of Pell Grants, Graduates' Earnings

January 17, 2014 - 7:42 AM

fsu graduation

Graduates wait for commencement exercises to begin at the Florida State University-Panama City graduation in Panama City, Fla. (Andrew P Johnson/The News Herald/AP/File

(CNSNews.com) - Under a new rating system for Florida's state universities, schools must meet the state's definition of an excellent school to earn state funding.

The benchmarks set by the Florida State University System's Board of Governors will influence who gets into the school (Pell Grant students are favored) and what subjects students study (STEM degrees encouraged).

The new system is "designed to reward university excellence and improvement and maximize the return on investment for Florida students," the Board of Governors said on Thursday.

Similar to the federal plan outlined by President Obama last August, the Florida model is intended to provide students with "a first-class education at an affordable cost, providing the best-possible opportunities for graduates to obtain and create good jobs and contribute to a successful Florida workforce," the Board of Governors said.

Under the new system, each university must strive to meet seven common "metrics," as follows:

-- percentage of graduates with bachelor's degrees who are employed and/or are continuing their education;
-- average wages of employed baccalaureate graduates;
-- cost for each undergraduate degree;
-- six-year graduation rate for first-time students;
-- academic progress rate (students still enrolled after two years with GPA above 2.0);
-- bachelor’s degrees awarded in "areas of strategic emphasis," which includes science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM);
-- university access rate (percentage of undergraduates with a Pell grant)

(An eighth metric, graduate degrees awarded in STEM fields, applies to 10 of the state's 12 universities.)

An additional two metrics have yet to be announced.

Funding:

Each university metric is scored on a five-point scale, ranging from high (excellence) to low (improving or needs improvement).

Universities that earn 26 points or higher (out of a maximum 50) are eligible to receive new funds.

Additionally, each university would contribute a small portion of their recurring base state funding to be allocated through the performance model.

Universities earning 26 points or higher would have their base funding restored.

Universities earning 25 points or fewer could see their base funding redistributed to high-performing universities.

(During the first year, a floor would be established so universities would lose no more than 1 percent of their existing base state funds.)

The Board has included $50 million in its budget request, which universities will match with a prorated amount from their recurring base state funds. For example, if $50 million is appropriated, the Board will award a total of $100 million in performance funding to the top-performing and most-improved universities.

"By providing new incentives, this model not only recognizes excellence, but encourages universities’ year-over-year improvement and creates an even better value for Florida students," the Board of Governors said.

“We listened to our stakeholders and worked closely with the universities to craft a way forward that is thoughtful and appropriate to today’s economic environment,” said Board Vice Chair Tom Kuntz. “This represents a new era of accountability and improvement for our State University System.”

As CNSNews.com reported, President Obama in August announced a plan for the federal government to create a national rating system that will define what a good college is and financially reward or punish colleges depending on how they rank in the government’s system.

The president said he intends to have the rating system in placed by the fall of 2015 and intends to work with Congress to enact legislation linking federal aid to colleges, according to the rating system.

As outlined by Obama, this rating system would look at essentially materialistic and financial characteristics of a college as opposed to intellectual and moral ones.

Also See:
Obama: Feds Will Define What a Good College Is, Punish and Reward Accordingly
Obama Administration Is ‘Strengthening’ Colleges It May Later Reward Under New Ratings System