Florida's new public college rating policy unfair

February 8, 2014 

The Florida Board of Governors adopted a misguided achievement model that somewhat mirrors one used by the state Department of Education. The top-ranked K-12 public schools earn bonus money while poor-scoring schools are threatened with state takeover or even closure. That, in effect, punishes schools desperate for additional resources to improve test marks and school grades. And the rich get richer.

So the trustees of Florida's public universities approved a new performance model that takes back state funds from universities that don't score enough points in this new system.

That could amount to 1 percent of state funding in 2014-2015 plus schools would not be eligible for extra money in performance funding. The latter totals $20 million for all state universities this year -- and a potential loss of $158,511 for New College of Florida, which fell one point short of the passing mark in the 50-point scale.

The board is requesting $50 million in performance bonuses for next year, and the three lowest scoring universities would be ineligible -- even with scores that surpass the benchmark.

How does this improve higher education? By forcing educators to focus on points instead of students?

Points are awarded for growing graduation rates; increasing the number of students in science, technology, engineering and math; percentage of students who secure a job or continue their education; and average wages graduates earn. Those are all laudable goals but are concentrated in well paying professions.

As Florida's university with a sharp focus on the liberal arts, New College faces an unfair disadvantage. The Board of Governors did not build a level playing field and should revisit the new policy.

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