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USF Tops State Universities' Performance-Based Funding Metrics; Consolidation Still On Track

students in university lecture hall
The University of South Florida is the top public university in performance-based metrics released by the Florida Board of Governors last week.

The Florida Board of Governors released its student success-based metrics last week, and the University of South Florida came out on top of the state’s twelve public universities.

According to the performance-based funding model, which was implemented by the state in 2014, schools are given scores between one and ten on ten different metrics, including job placement, graduation rates, and academic progress.

USF received 94 points for 2020-21, four more than the runner-up University of Florida.

USF earned the highest score possible in five categories, including net tuition and fees and four-year graduation rate.

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox says strength in that first category has led to USF’s improvement in the second.

“I think affordability is a big part of that. As we provide access and an affordable way to our students, it means more and more of our students are able to study full-time and therefore, accelerate towards degree completion.”

The numbers are a combination of all three USF campuses – the main Tampa campus, USF St. Petersburg, and USF Sarasota-Manatee.

The other three categories the school earned a score of ten in included bachelor’s degrees awarded in areas of strategic emphasis, graduate degrees awarded in areas of strategic emphasis, and percent of bachelor’s degrees without excess hours.

“We have streamlined and introduced modified eight semester degree plans for freshmen students and four semester plans for transfer students, so we've created a clearer path to graduation then perhaps students have been provided in the past,” said Wilcox.

He added that USF has cut down the number of students who graduate with 132 credit hours or more – students need 120 to graduate – to 15 percent.

“We’ve still got some work to do,” said Wilcox.

Chart of Florida State University System performance
Credit Florida Board of Governors
A five-year summary of performance metrics for the State University System shows USF has improved from 79 points in 2016-17 to a state leading 94 in 2020-2021.

“Our performance on benchmarks such as graduation rates, student access and the number of students employed after earning a degree underscores my belief that USF is where academic excellence converges with opportunity for our students,” added USF System President Steven Currall.  “Our performance-based funding milestones advance our goal of becoming a top 25 public university.”

Both gave credit for the performance to the same groups.

“The University of South Florida community should be immensely proud of our success in the state’s performance-based funding model,” said Currall. “Our achievements are truly a reflection of the dedicated work of our students, faculty and staff.”

“It's their creativity. It's their hard work and dedication and their confidence in the plan that we have collectively developed across the University of South Florida that has allowed USF to emerge this year as the state's leader in performance-based funding,” said Wilcox.

The universities will split a pot of performance-based funding. According to the budget for fiscal 2020-21, it should be $560 million – a combination of what the state has invested and what member schools have contributed.

However, Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to sign the budget, so that amount could change.

But the provost said that, with USF’s standing, if the funding is approved as is, the school can expect to receive $75.9 million - $35.9 million in state investment and almost $40 million in member schools’ investment.

“(The funds) support students’ financial aid, they support faculty salaries and staff salaries at the university and all of this support infrastructure, including library resources and information technology that is so essential to deliver a world-class education,” said Wilcox.

USF’s allocation would trail the $100.8 million the University of Florida, which scored 90 points, would receive, and the $87.2 million Florida State, which scored 85 points, would receive.

Wilcox also told WUSF that the consolidation of accreditation for the three USF campuses under one umbrella remains on track to meet the state deadline of July 1.

Read more: See WUSF's coverage of USF's consolidation process

“We've worked hard on that over the past couple of years and we think we're in a very, very good position and we're moving forward with a fullest expectation that that's the path we will be on,” said Wilcox. “There's no doubt that we're going to be a much stronger institution for that.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission is expected to take up USF's updated consolidation plan at its meeting June 11.

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