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FL Universities Could Receive $400M in Performance-Based Funds

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News

While University of South Florida officials wait to see if the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott sign off on the state budget and more than $29 million for two important projects, they're also waiting for approval of millions more in performance-based rewards.

At its meeting in Tampa Thursday, the Florida Board of Governors voted to approve $400 million in performance funds for 11 of the State University System's members (Florida Polytechnic University hasn't been in existence long enough to qualify for the bonus money).

Under the proposal, USF would receive about $58.8 million; $23.6 million in state funds and almost $35.2 million from its own budget that it's required to contribute. Schools had to meet a certain number of performance metrics to have those donated funds restored.

According to ratings released by the Board earlier this year, USF finished second among the 11 universities rated, trailing only the University of Florida.

Schools were rated on ten metrics covering such topics as students graduating with degrees in high-wage, high-demand areas; students graduating in six years or less; and wages earned by new graduates.

USF was also ranked second in 2014-2015 and received $22.2 million of the state's $200 million in performance-based funds. They were tied for first in 2013-2014, the first year of rankings, and received $2.6 million out of a $20 million pot.

USF System President Judy Genshaft pointed out that the funds get put into programs that benefit students, which in turn improves the school's performance - making the whole thing cyclical.

"The students' benefits are huge because they get more advising, more faculty attention, they have career resources. It's all about helping the students go through school in the most efficient, effective way, happy we hope, and also graduating and finding a job," she said.

Under the budget submitted by lawmakers earlier this week, USF would receive $17 million in Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds for its planned downtown medical school and $12.3 million for a new building for the USF St. Petersburg Kate Tiedemann College of Business.

"There wasn't a lot of PECO money to begin with, so the fact that we're getting these items funded is enormous, it's enormous," Genshaft said. "And we're also very pleased that the Florida Institute of Oceanography (which is based at USF's College of Marine Science on the USFSP campus) received ($6 million) for a new (research) vessel, which was very much needed."

The Florida Center for Cybersecurity, a statewide facility based at USF, would receive $2 million out of the $5 million it requested.

Lawmakers turned down USF's request for $15.8 million for the new Heart Institute, which would be housed with the medical school as part of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's proposed $1 billion redevelopment of  downtown Tampa. However, that project has already received $35 million from previous legislatures.

Also not receiving any money is the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities (FCMRU). The combination of USF, University of Central Florida and Florida International University was seeking $12 million. Even with the denial, the FCMRU may receive funds from other sources, including the universities' performance-based rewards.

State lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget Friday and then send it on to Gov. Scott for his signature.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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