One way university officials can evaluate USF’s yearly success is its performance-based funding figure — a source of millions of dollars in funding determined by how well USF performs as a university.
During June’s Board of Governors meeting, it was estimated that the USF system would receive approximately $23 million in performance-based funding — the second highest in the state following the University of Florida.
However, the university received about $8 million less this year as the state Legislature cut a portion of the State University System’s recurring performance-based funding across all universities.
In an email to The Oracle after his fall faculty address last week, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said USF received a little more than $15 million.
In total, the USF system received $15,078,135 in performance-based funding.
Of that funding, Wilcox said, more than $13 million was allocated to the Tampa campus, $1 million went to the St. Petersburg campus and $570,220 was allocated to USF Sarasota-Manatee.
From the amount allocated to USF Tampa, Wilcox said an initial $2 million was devoted to campus-wide information technology infrastructure.
Of the $11 million remaining, he said half was distributed to colleges within USF Health and Academic Affairs. This allocation was based on contributions to USF’s high rankings in performance metrics, such as graduation and retention rates, that the state uses to decide how much funding each university receives.
“The better they performed, the more they received, in essence,” Wilcox said in an interview with The Oracle.
He said the other half of the $11 million is being temporarily held in a pool of funds for later investment at the discretion of the provost and university president.
“We haven’t made a decision on what those will be yet,” he said.
According to Wilcox, this funding will likely be invested in academic areas that will help USF improve its performance-based metrics figures in future years. He said some of the main investments include retention programs to help keep students enrolled at USF, as well as student advising and career readiness programs. Wilcox said he also expects colleges to invest in additional professors.
“That will mean that our students will find themselves in smaller, more intimate class settings, which we think is important, and research shows is important, to student success,” he said.
USF ranked second in this year’s performance-based funding, scoring 42 out of a possible 50 points of performance metrics. This is the third year in a row USF received a top ranking in performance funding, earning second place last year with $22.2 million, and tying for first with $2.6 million in the first year of the state’s performance-based funding model.
Among other metrics, this year USF ranked high with 75 percent of graduates either employed or continuing their education, a median average wage of $35,200 for graduates within one-year of graduation, an average degree cost of $25,490 and a six-year graduation rate of 66 percent.
UF, as the highest-performing school, was estimated to receive $30.6 million in new funding before the cuts in funding to the State University System.
During his fall address, Wilcox also announced significant progress in USF’s open access digital textbooks program. He said the program, which would replace potentially costly hardcopy textbooks with more affordable e-textbooks, was introduced as a pilot last year and will be first introduced to students enrolled in professor Jennifer Schneider’s “Literature in Childhood Education” course.
“The cost of textbooks today is skyrocketing,” Wilcox said in an interview with The Oracle. “Such open-source electronic platforms provide for cost-effective access because, in essence, students won’t have to buy a textbook for their class.”
Wilcox said open access e-textbooks will be in development this year for other courses through a partnership between the USF Library and Innovative Education. He said development will focus on undergraduate general education courses with high enrollment that require students to purchase costly textbooks.
“We can’t help what (textbook) publishers are charging, but we do have a responsibility to keep a watchful eye on it,” he said.
Wilcox also reported further developments between USF and the University of Exeter. In addition to existing joint research projects and a student exchange program between the universities, Wilcox said USF will expand student scholarships, US-UK Fulbright opportunities and grants for overseas study at Exeter.
He said USF will also work to award sabbaticals with a travel supplement to faculty interested in spending a semester or full academic year working on research projects in selected fields with colleagues at Exeter.
With the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, Wilcox also briefly mentioned faculty travel to Cuba in his address. While there are no laws preventing state-funded travel to the island nation, there are still federal regulations and lengthy license processes faculty members are subject to.
He urged faculty members wishing to construct research projects or similar ventures in Cuba to first consult with USF World — USF’s lead office for international engagement and travel.
“The reason I say, ‘Please work with USF World,’ is because we don’t want professors or students hurtling down the road planning (a trip to Cuba) only to learn at the last moment, as they try to get onto a plane to Havana, that they don’t have the necessary documentation,” Wilcox said.
While he said study abroad trips to Cuba may not be in USF’s near future, he thinks it is inevitable for faculty and students to one day be engaged in research and education abroad with Cuba as a destination.
“Legally, there’s nothing standing in our way,” he said. “It’s just a matter of faculty members developing an appropriate educationally-based proposal, uncovering sufficient student interest and working with the authorities.”