How FSU got hammered in the SUS performance funding model: Not enough degrees in STEM and other “Areas of Strategic Emphasis”

As reported last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Florida State had a particularly rough go in the state’s performance funding model.  A look at the performance funding worksheet from the Board of Governors makes it clear in which metrics the university was pummeled the worst:  “Average Cost per Undergraduate Degree to the Institution”, on which FSU earned 2 points out of a possible 5; “Bachelors’ Degrees Awarded in Areas of Strategic Emphasis (Including STEM)”, where FSU earned 2 points; “Graduate Degrees Awarded in Areas of Strategic Emphasis (Including STEM)”, in which FSU earned 1 point; and “Faculty Awards”, where FSU earned 2 points.  Only FSU and UF are evaluated on the basis of faculty awards, and UF earned 3 points in this category.

Given the amount of faculty effort it takes to produce a bachelor’s degree in engineering or physics, it’s not at all clear to me that we would even want to do well in the “Average Cost per Undergraduate Degree to the Institution” metric.  And faculty awards is a tough business.  The way to quickly boost faculty awards is to recruit senior people away from other institutions with enormous salaries and multimillion dollar startup packages, and it’s not at all clear that this is usually the best course for an institution to take.  In terms of what’s best for students, recruiting strong junior faculty members makes much more sense in most cases.

Which leaves the issue of degrees in areas of strategic emphasis.  No matter how much my colleagues would like to maintain the present balance of degrees and power on campus, we simply must move the needle to produce more degrees in STEM and other areas of strategic emphasis at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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