Sunday, December 17, 2017
Opinion

To support university excellence, fund performance

Set a goal. Work toward it. Track your progress. Succeed, and reap rewards.

That simple equation — which no doubt guides the way you do business, raise your children or better yourself — is what we want for the State University System of Florida.

We are talking about performance funding: awarding money to institutions based on performance in key measures of student success. It's a practice already in place at university systems across the country, and one that represents a natural evolution in the State University System's unprecedented commitment to strategic planning and accountability.

For the past three years, the Florida Board of Governors has worked to build a framework by which our public universities set goals, keep track of challenges and refine their unique missions within a systemwide strategic plan. Through universities' annual work plans and accountability reports, the board is now able to better highlight achievements and keep an eye on potential trouble spots. This approach makes the entire system more organized, more efficient and more transparent.

The next step? Putting money where our mouth is.

The Board of Governors is requesting approximately $100 million in new funds from the Legislature this year to be invested in our universities based on specific goals. Those goals — taken directly from the universities' annual work plans and approved by the board — include improving graduation and retention rates, ensuring access to baccalaureate degrees, increasing graduate education opportunities and increasing support for critical research. We want to make sure our graduates leave the system not only with all the knowledge and understanding that comes with higher education, but with the skills they need to build careers and strengthen Florida's economy. That will have positive effects on us all.

We are not looking for a rigid formula. All of our universities have unique missions, strengths, needs and challenges. We want to measure universities against their own potential — not the potential of others.

We are not looking to be punitive. This is about making our universities better, not punishing them. This is about helping them identify ways to move them forward, not creating roadblocks that hold them back.

Finally, we are not only concerned with how our universities have performed in years past, but also how they plan to aim higher in the future. Rewarding completed goals is important, but so is setting aggressive benchmarks and recognizing progress.

While much of the groundwork has been done, the Board of Governors is now working with the universities and our elected leaders to refine the process and answer questions. What we do know is that in order to grow the knowledge-based economy that will be the foundation of Florida's future, we need universities that are working as a cohesive system and dedicated to excellence.

Performance funding — and the accountability that comes along with it — is an important step forward.

Frank T. Brogan is the chancellor of the State University System of Florida. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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