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USF prepares for Governor’s budget

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 01:01

Almost a year after the Florida Senate proposed to slash USF’s budget by 58 percent, a proposal that USF President Judy Genshaft called “blatantly unfair,” Genshaft stood before the Faculty Senate on Wednesday cautiously optimistic as the university waits for the Governor’s proposed budget that will begin the legislative allocation process.

This time, she said, things were different.

All 12 of Florida’s public university want the same thing, she said.

“It’s unusual for all state presidents to get together to give one unified message to the Legislature,” she said. “But all of our university state presidents have come together because if, for example, we were a car, we’re out of gas and electricity.”

They want, she said, the $300 million cut from the State University System’s budget last year restored. They also want an additional $118 million — about equivalent to a 15 percent tuition increase, something Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly said he opposes.

“If they give us that, then we will not ask for tuition to be raised,” Genshaft said.

In a campaign called “Aim Higher,” Genshaft said the university presidents are traveling around the state, meeting with senators, legislators and editorial boards to spread their message.

But even if the money is granted, it may not all come easily.

At a Board of Governors (BOG) meeting last week, BOG member Tom Kuntz said if the State University System did receive the additional $118 million from the state, they would likely distribute it to universities using a performance-based funding model.

The Board has identified 10 metrics out of an initial list of 40 they would likely use if the money was granted, though they said the metrics are still up for discussion. 

“You might as well have none if you have 40 metrics,” Kuntz said. “Everyone can find one they look great in and one someone else doesn’t look good in, and then you end up right where you started.” 

The metrics include: percent of graduated undergraduates employed or seeking higher education, cost per undergraduate degree, average wages of employed undergraduates, six-year graduation rates (a metric of USF’s which was critically questioned by the BOG during the last legislative session), academic progress rates, university accessibility rates, bachelors degrees awarded in areas of strategic interest, masters degrees awarded in areas of strategic interest, one BOG-selected metric and one university-selected metric. The BOG would rank schools in both excellence as well as improvement. 

But some had concerns over how this model could accurately gauge a university’s performance.

University of Florida (UF) President Bernie Machen said the metrics lacked emphasis on research — a component important to schools such as USF and UF.

Faculty Senate President and a professor in the department of mental health law and policy Gregory Teague said the metrics could potentially devalue areas of the university that are not weighted metrics, such as non-science, technology, engineering and mathematics related area.

“That’s the difference between higher education and a vocational school,” he said. “It’s the knowledge we create and give to society as well as the liberal arts education given to students.”

Vice Provost for Strategic and Budget Planning Graham Tobin said overall, performance-based funding could be a good thing in allowing USF to improve on its own strategic interest, but said constant improvement in the metrics could potentially be difficult if neither tuition nor funding were increased.

Genshaft said tracking students after graduating would be an important component of keeping these metrics, and the University was planning to offer one free year of membership to the Alumni Association in an effort to keep in touch with alumni better.

But Genshaft expressed other concerns at Wednesday’s meeting as well — Scott’s five newest appointments to the BOG.

“No new board members are from Tampa Bay,” she said. “What does this mean? We’ve lost our representation from our own area. Several of them have no university experience in terms of being part of any university in the state of Florida.”

At the last BOG meeting, the Board granted UF, the University of Central Florida, the University of West Florida and Florida International University $3.75 million each in the first trial allocation of performance-based funding.

“We hope that will be us next year,” Genshaft said.


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