Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Performance-based funding a problem, but it isn’t “killing” FAMU

Rattler Nation has written for years about why funding in the State University System of Florida (SUS) shouldn’t be tied to six-year graduation rates. FAMU has had a course load cliff for years. Most FAMU students have to take smaller course loads whenever the cost of college increases. Smaller course loads hurt the FAMU six-year graduation rate.

Six-year graduation rates are currently one part of the performance funding metrics of the Florida Board of Governors (BOG). That’s a problem. But it isn’t “killing” FAMU.

SUS schools that don’t meet the minimum performance standards can lose a capped amount of “institutional investment” money that comes out of their annual appropriation from the legislature. FAMU hasn’t lost any money due to that because it has met the minimum standards each year.

Mangum partially blames admissions standards for enrollment drop

Back in August, former President Elmira Mangum wrote an op-ed for HBCU Digest that pointed to changes to the federal financial aid program and tighter admissions standards by the BOG and FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) as two of the reasons for the enrollment drop during her administration.

“In 2012, the FAMU Board of Trustees changed the University’s policy to limit Access and Opportunity Students (profile admits) in an effort to ensure the University admitted more college-ready students,” Mangum wrote. “At the height of FAMU’s enrollment, almost 80 percent of FAMU’s admitted students who subsequently enrolled were Access and Opportunity Students (AOS). However, many of these students were not progressing academically, churned, and most did not graduate.”

Mangum didn’t mention that back when most of the admitted FAMU students were profile admits, all the freshman classes still had 3.0+ average GPAs from high school.

That increase in “profile admits” also didn’t cause any major change in the six-year graduation rate at FAMU, which has been around 40 percent for some time now.

The reduction in profile admits actually began at FAMU back in 2010 (four years before Mangum became president). FAMU’s profile admit numbers for freshmen went from 78 percent in Fall 2009 to 67 percent in Fall 2010. But overall enrollment still increased from 12,261 in Fall 2009 to 13,277 in Fall 2010. Overall enrollment went down slightly in Fall 2011 but started nosediving in Fall 2012 after a federal financial aid program overhaul went into place. 

BOT didn’t approve $9M+ in tuition and fee loses as an enrollment strategy

The university’s enrollment in Fall 2015 dropped to 9,920 (down from 10,233 in Fall 2014) under Mangum. That loss of 313 students, with the rest of the student losses from that year, cost FAMU $9M+ in tuition and fees.

Mangum left FAMU with a loss of 308 students for Fall 2016. The total amount of tuition and fee money FAMU will lose isn’t clear. But it could still end up being in the millions.

“Every 100 students means a million dollars out of our budget,” BOT Chair Kelvin Lawson said in an interview with the Capitol News Service.

The BOT hasn’t ever approved a $9M+ decline in enrollment as a strategy to reduce profile admits.

Mangum’s enrollment decline didn’t help FAMU improve on BOG performance metrics

Mangum defended the enrollment decline as being necessary in order to increase the quality of the students FAMU has as it tries to do better on the BOG performance metrics. 

“Quantity does have to be sacrificed in order to get quality,” she told the BOT.

FAMU did improve on the BOG performance metrics in 2014-2015. But most of the “marks of excellence” FAMU received were based on data or work from the 2013-2014 year. Mangum had little to do with those marks because she was only in office during the last four months of that fiscal year.

The only “excellence” area that was entirely from Mangum’s first full year in 2014-2015 came from “Bachelor’s degrees awarded within programs of strategic emphasis.” That went down by 1.5 percent.

Mangum lacked Harold Martin’s enrollment management skills

The enrollment trends at North Carolina A&T University (NCA&T), which replaced FAMU as the largest single campus historically black college or university in 2014-2015, show that Mangum's claim that quantity must be rolled back “in order to get quality” isn’t true.

NCA&T Chancellor Harold Martin hasn’t placed quality aside as he has expanded enrollment. He reversed the school’s decline in students in Fall 2014 after two straight years of falling enrollment caused by the federal financial aid program overhaul. The freshman, first-time student classes that Martin enrolled in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 both had an average high school GPA of 3.28.

Martin has increased NCA&T’s overall enrollment again in Fall 2016 and brought in a freshman class with an average high school GPA of 3.48

An effort to recruit a bigger number of college-ready students doesn’t mean that enrollment has to decline. A university can recruit college-ready students and grow its enrollment at the same time.

Performance-based funding hasn’t cost FAMU any money yet. FAMU lost millions in tuition and fees under Mangum because she didn’t have the strong enrollment management skills of HBCU leaders like Martin.

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