Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Alexander says changes to grad rate measure in performance funding are unfair to FAMU

Yesterday, State Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, cast a “no” vote against a bill that would change the preferred performance funding measure for public university graduation rates from six years to four years.

According to the News Service of Florida, “The Senate wants to measure university undergraduate programs on a four-year graduation basis. The House also would use a four-year measure, but would add a six-year measure with weighting for four-year graduations.”

Alexander opposed the bill (HB 3), which passed with an 11-3 vote during a meeting of the House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee. He said: “this proposal in many respects will have a negative impact on Florida A&M University.”

The News Service of Florida explained that Alexander pointed to the fact that many FAMU students take longer than four years to graduate because they are from low-income families and working their way through college.

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 graduation rate.

SB 2, a bill on higher education that Senate President Joe Negron pushed through his chamber, included an amendment by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton that makes the consideration of “access rates” a permanent part of the performance funding metrics. Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, was a co-sponsor.

It states that: “The performance-based metrics must include…access, with benchmarks that reward institutions with access rates at or above 50 percent.”

“Like many students today, I worked throughout college and law school, and I understand the challenge of working and balancing difficult coursework,” Negron said. “I am confident this package of policy enhancements will help more students graduate on-time, while maintaining the flexibility some students need as they balance their studies with family and work obligations.”

The Florida Board of Governors included the access rate as part of its performance funding metrics last year. It was one of FAMU’s excellence areas. But SB 2 would make the access rate part of the law and require a university to have an access rate of at least 50 percent in order to receive performance funds for that metric.

HB 3 doesn’t include a specific percentage for the access rate. It would modify the law to say that: “The performance-based metrics must include…access, including both enrollment and graduation rates for low-income students.”

But that wasn’t enough to convince Alexander that the changes are fair to FAMU.           

“We’re picking winners and we’re picking losers,” Alexander said. “I have a problem with that.”

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