Bill to tighten up performance funding criteria for Florida’s public universities sailing through Senate committees

If you work at a public university in Florida like me, you might want to keep an eye on SB 524, which would tighten up the State University System performance funding criteria that almost left FSU out in the cold this year.  The bill already received a favorable report from the Senate Higher Education Committee on a bipartisan 9-0 vote, and it has a date with the Education Subcommittee of the Florida Appropriations Committee next week.  Bill author Don Gaetz is the chair of that subcommittee.

One of the metrics that determines how much performance funding a university receives (if any at all) is the average first-year earnings of bachelor’s degree graduates who find jobs in Florida.  FSU’s number for graduates from the 2012-13 academic year was a startling $31,600 – and it was startling because it was so low.

How low is $31,600?  Even if every bachelor’s degree graduate had taken a K-12 teaching job the average would have been about $5,000 higher.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, if FSU’s salary number had been only $400 lower, the university would have lost out on performance funding altogether.

SB 524 seems to zero in on FSU’s salary number with this language:  “The performance metrics must include…wage thresholds that reflect the added value of a baccalaureate degree.”  The wage threshold would be set by the Board of Governors, but it is clear that the intent is to raise starting salaries for graduates – presumably by shifting the mix of majors on each campus so that there are more students in degree programs that lead to higher-paying jobs.

That would be a challenge for FSU, an institution that has a tradition of strong programs in the arts and humanities but which has an image problem among Florida’s parents, teachers and students when it comes to science and engineering – despite having (for example) the strongest physics and Earth science departments in the state.

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