Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SB 2 could help FAMU’s access rate funding, but make grad rate funding more difficult

Florida Senate President Joe Negron at FAMU in April, 2016
Senate Bill (SB) 2 could make it more difficult for Florida A&M University to get performance funds based on its graduation rate. But FAMU would likely qualify for more performance funds based on its access rate, which could be invested into helping students finish college quicker.

SB 2 would change the preferred performance funding measure for State University System of Florida (SUS) graduation rates from six years to four years. That would hurt FAMU, which had the lowest four year graduation rate in the SUS in 2015 at 13.4 percent. The University of West Florida was at 19.4 percent and Florida Gulf Coast University was at 19.9 percent.

But SB 2 could help FAMU gain a larger share of the performance funding dollars in the access rate category. The Florida Board of Governors (BOG), which distributes performance funds, defines the access rate as “the number of undergraduates, enrolled during the fall term, who received a Pellgrant during the fall term.”

FAMU got an “excellence” mark for its access rate last year, which was based on its 64.7 percent access rate in Fall 2014. The BOG benchmark for “excellence” in the access rate category was only 30 percent. That resulted in every other SUS school getting an “excellence” mark for its access rate, too. The lowest access rate was at New College of Florida, which had exactly 30 percent.

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

Source: 2016-2017 BOG final metric score sheet
If the minimum access rate had been 50 percent last year, then only FAMU (64.7 percent) and Florida International University (50.5 percent) would have qualified for performance funds in that area.

FAMU alumnus and state Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, recently explained that many FAMU students take longer than four years to graduate because they are from low-income families and are working to pay for 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.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he supported the access rate change he understands what it’s like to have to hold a job in order to afford to stay in college.

“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.”

Back when Negron visited FAMU in April of 2016, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that he “said two themes of interest stood out: the need to improve buildings on campus so they can be better designed and equipped for computer labs and other student-assisted measures and ‘the need to be sensitive’ to the financial needs of students.”

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