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Education

USF tops Florida universities in Scott’s ‘pay for performance’ plan

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Published:   |   Updated: September 12, 2013 at 06:24 PM

TAMPA — The state university system has doled out its first performance-based funds, and the University of South Florida came out a big winner.

With good scores on three performance benchmarks, USF was awarded $2.6 million from a $20 million pot split among the state’s 11 active public universities.

The funding and methodology for distribution were approved Thursday in Sarasota by the state Board of Governors, which oversees public higher education.

“We’re very pleased that we were the highest performer on those measures,” said Mark Walsh, USF’s assistant vice president for government relations. “Any time we can collect funds based on performance, we’re happy to get it.”

The state Legislature in the spring passed a bill requiring the board to reward universities based on the percentage of graduates employed or enrolled in further education, the average wages of employed graduates, and the average cost per graduate to the institution.

The concept was originally part of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2013-14 budget. “Our goal for supporting students was to ensure they can find a job and pursue their dreams after school,” Scott said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. “That’s why these millions of dollars are based on our institutions’ effectiveness in preparing our students for the future.”

On those three performance metrics, the board created a point system that gave a university a 0, 1, 2 or 3 depending on what threshold was being addressed. For example, when considering the percent of bachelor’s degree graduates either employed or continuing their education one year after graduation, a school earned a 1 if the figure was 55 percent, a 2 if it hit 65 percent, and a 3 if the level was 75 percent.

At USF, 69 percent of graduates were employed or seeking advanced degrees a year after graduation, yielding the 2 score.

The median average full-time wage of a USF undergraduate who found employment within a year of graduation was $33,466, earning the school a 2 in that category.

And the average cost per undergraduate to the institution was $23,276 at USF, yielding another 2.

USF and the University of Central Florida were the only schools to earn total scores of 6, earning 2s in each category. Florida and Florida State, designated as the state’s pre-eminent universities, earned overall scores of 4 and 5 respectively. The complete results are online at tbo.ly/1e7nMCM.

Ralph Wilcox, provost and executive vice president of the USF system, called the board of governor’s recognition “great news.”

“This is not something new to the University of South Florida,” he said. “Planning, performance and accountability are three characteristics that have become an integral and central part of all we do at the university.”

With USF receiving some $200 million a year in state funding, the performance-based addition isn’t necessarily a windfall, but it’s certainly welcome, said Walsh. It’s unrestricted money, and he said administrators haven’t even considered where to spend it, adding, “We’ll have to talk about it.”

The Board of Governors eventually hopes to expand the funding program to address 10 performance metrics, including such benchmarks as six-year graduation rate and degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering and math. The board will also tailor some performance measures to individual schools; USF will be asked for data on graduates with excess hours.

The board is also asking the Legislature to increase the performance-based pot to $50 million next year.

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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