TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- A new performance-funding system for state colleges was approved Thursday by the State Board of Education, the latest step in Florida officials' drive to tie money for higher education to how well institutions and their students do.
Board members unanimously approved the model, but some did so hesitantly, discouraged by standards that were left out of the model under legislative instructions or did not feature as prominently in the scores colleges receive because of a scarcity of data.
The performance system will control how the state divvies up a total of $40 million, including $20 million of new funding for colleges and $20 million in money that colleges were already receiving. In that respect, it resembles a larger performance plan for state universities that started last year.
Colleges will be scored based on four categories: Completion rates for students, retention rates for students, job placement and continuing education for graduates and the entry-level wages for graduates. At least initially, completion and retention rates will be weighed more heavily than job placement and wages.
That bothered some board members, who noted that Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials have pushed for colleges and universities to put more emphasis on the prospects of those with college degrees to find work. But Christopher Mullin, executive vice chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges, said the state isn't able to get the information it needs from some states where students are likely to move.
Both of Florida's closest neighbors --- Alabama and Georgia --- aren't part of a multistate agreement that would allow Florida to get accurate information about jobs and wages, Mullin said.
"What we have is a number of colleges along the I-10 corridor whose students might live or work right across the border. ... We're working really hard to get Georgia and Alabama to join in as well, where we won't have to worry about this issue moving forward," Mullin said.
Board Chairwoman Marva Johnson said the department should try to find other routes to get the information it needs regardless of what happens with the data-sharing agreement.
"I don't want to have to wait on them to get to 50 (states)," she said. "I really would love for us to try to find a way to get, maybe it won't be perfect data, but as close as we can to the best data, so that we can properly value job placement and wages in the metric system."
Meanwhile, board member Rebecca Lipsey said she was disappointed that lawmakers set aside a recommendation from Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that the performance formula include a measurement focused specifically on students who received federal need-based financial aid. In all, lawmakers dropped five metrics that Stewart had proposed.
"By removing that, we're no longer, when thinking about performance funding for our college system, finding a way to incentivize and reward colleges for specifically ensuring that their low-income students are having great outcomes," Lipsey said.
According to information provided to the board, seven colleges will receive their existing funding back and a higher share of the new money: Santa Fe College; Valencia College; Tallahassee Community College; Lake-Sumter State College; Gulf Coast State College; State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; and Florida SouthWestern State College. Five schools --- Pasco-Hernando State College, the College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Northwest Florida State College and Pensacola State College --- will not receive new funding and will have some of their existing funding held back until they show improvement.
The other 16 colleges will receive their existing funding and some performance funding, though not as much as the seven highest-scoring schools.