USF second in line for performance-based funding

For the third year in a row, USF sits near the top of Florida’s performance-based funding model that is meant to reward academic excellence and improvement. 

The Board of Governors (BOG) announced Wednesday the 2015-16 performance rankings of the 12 state public universities. USF was second only to University of Florida, which positions the university to receive millions of dollars in government investment.

Last year, when USF also ranked second, the university received more than $22 million that went to fund a career success center at USF Sarasota-Manatee, new faculty in USF St. Petersburg and a revamped career resources center in USF Tampa.

The amount USF will receive this year won’t be known until the final state budget is finalized in two months, though Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he wants to pump more money this year into the performance-based model. 

Scott’s budget plan, released last month, proposed an additional $130 million to the $330 million base, more than twice the amount he proposed last year.

The performance model was established two years ago. After slashing public university funding by $300 million across the board in 2013, Scott and some legislators emphasized the program as the key to improving universities through competition. 

The BOG uses a system of different metrics to judge a university’s merits. Some include how many graduates find employment, how many students graduate within six years, how many students are awarded STEM degrees and the average wage of graduates.

“Performance funding signifies a new era for our State University System, one that places a renewed emphasis on university accountability,” said BOG Chair Mori Hosseini in a statement. “USF has made strategic investments in its students and that focus is paying off.”

The rankings consider a university’s improvement from the previous academic year. This year, USF saw an increase of six-year graduation rates from 63 to 66 percent.

There was also an increase in graduates finding employment or continuing their education from 70 percent to 75 percent.

“I couldn’t be more proud, quite frankly,” said Provost Ralph Wilcox to the Tampa Tribune. “The focus (and) the discipline that our leadership, our Board of Trustees, our faculty, staff and of course our students have exhibited is tremendous. While we’re pleased with where we are, and sometimes my colleagues get a little leery of me saying this, but there’s certainly still room for improvement. We are not satisfied.”

The BOG is expected to finalize the results today after a vote.