It's hard to believe that there are 12 universities in Florida's system. We can remember UF and FSU, no problem (go sports!), but the rest might as well be alphabet soup. FGCU? UWF? FAMU?
But at the bottom of the pile is our very own FAU, according to an analysis conducted by the Board of Governors. This body was just tasked with divvying up $100 million in funds among the schools, and its members decided to use a performance-based model rather than splitting it evenly.
As punishment, Florida Atlantic University will have $7 million in funding redistributed to other institutions in the system.
This isn't the first time that Boca's university has been told to shape up this year. Back in February, the Tampa Bay Times reported that FAU was poised to lose 1 percent of its total funding because it scored below a threshold based on ten criteria.
All 12 of the schools were graded with a system that awards points for high graduation rates, the number of students employed after graduation, the number of students receiving Pell grants, and the number of STEM degrees awarded, among other things.
FAU lost $1.4 million for scoring only 24 out of 50 points. (UWF and New College lost money as well.) Now, with this second round of funding, it's lost the chance to grab its piece of $100 million.
But all hope is not lost. The money can be restored if there's improvement.
"Our goal is not to take money away from any institution," the chancellor of the State University System, Marshall Criser, told the student paper at FAU. "What I believe that this plan does is demonstrates the state university system understands the importance of investing students' dollars and taxpayers' dollars in the quality of the education we provide for our students."
Last week, FAU released its plan, and it shows exactly why the school scored so poorly. Apparently zero points were awarded in the areas of graduation rate and second-year retention of students. The school scored pretty dismally in those metrics, its 42 percent graduation rate beating out only FAMU. Thirty percent of students enter their second year with a GPA below 2.0.
To combat this, FAU will hire 26 new academic advisers by May 2015. It will also install a schoolwide advising system that will help track at-risk students, develop "flight plans" to help students take the quickest path from A to Degree, launch a degree program in "general studies," and force undeclared students to take a life-planning class.
Although it doesn't seem like it makes sense to take away money from poorly performing universities, it's actually the right move. The Board of Governors' plan isn't the same thing as docking a public school teacher pay for low student performance on tests like the FCAT. This isn't kicking somebody who's already down or punishing someone for factors beyond his or her ultimate control.
Money is the ultimate motivator, and if schools like FAU are failing their students, they need to be held accountable. If withholding funds from them until they come up with an action plan that promotes student success is what it takes, so be it.
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