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Low-scoring universities will lose state funding under new performance model


State universities could lose a small portion of their state funding under a new performance model approved today that penalizes low performers.

Any university that doesn't receive at least 26 points under the new 50-point system will lose 1 percent of its state funding in 2014-2015. Those schools also would be ineligible to receive any additional money allocated for performance funding.

This is a departure from the model implemented earlier this year, which allowed all active state universities to share $20 million. That ranged from $2.6 million for the top performers, University of South Florida and University of Central Florida, to a low of $434,783 for New College of Florida. (Florida Polytechnic University doesn't have students yet, so it is ineligible for performance funding.)

New College President Donal O'Shea said he ran the numbers on the new model and his school isn't projected to reach 26 points unless one more Pell grant recipient enrolls. Based on its state funding for the current year, New College could be penalized $158,511 if it does not get the extra point.

Even that amount would be a hardship for Florida's smallest university, which focuses on the liberal arts, O'Shea said.

"This is the first year that New College has not used reserves to pay for recurring expenses," he said. "We are down on fumes."

Florida State University President Eric Barron also expressed concerns even though his school is unlikely to face any penalties. "This presents the likelihood that all the universities at the bottom will lose every year," Barron said.

Members of the state's governing body for public universities disagreed. Chairman Mori Hosseini said lawmakers have indicated that the university system would not receive more funding in the state budget that will be crafted during the 2014 legislative session unless universities agreed to take on some risk, too.

"If you want new money, you have to have skin in the game," Hosseini said he was told.

Carlo Fassi, the student representative on the board, voted against the proposal during a committee meeting this morning. Faculty representative Manoj Chopra also expressed concerns but did not dissent.

In addition to New College, the most susceptible to the 1-percent cut are regional universities like Florida Atlantic University, University of West Florida and University of North Florida, as well as Florida A&M University, the state's only historically black public university.

The Board of Governors is asking the state for $50 million in additional funding to dole out under these new performance funding rules. Schools will receive points based on how well they perform or show improvement in categories like six-year graduation rates and the number of students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.

The three universities earning the lowest amount of points would not be eligible to receive any performance funding, even if they surpass the 26-point threshhold.

Separately, the board is also asking lawmakers to allocate $321 million in funding to update facilities on university campuses or finish building projects already underway. Institutions have complained for years that the economic downturn and consequential budget cuts have dried up funding they used to receive for maintenance, renovations and multi-year construction.

"The 3-2-1 plan supports facilities that the Legislature has already supported with partial funding," Hosseini said. "Our board is focused on completing these crucial projects. Compared to other systems across the country, Florida invests relatively little in facilities."