The year 2016 is expected to be a year of challenges for Pensacola State College, both academically and financially.
When the state Board of Education approved a performance-based funding plan for higher education, it led to more than $600,000 being withheld from PSC’s base funding, which totals $34 million.
“In order to get it appropriated, we were required to submit a performance funding improvement plan, which we did,” said PSC President Ed Meadows. “We’re in the reporting phase now on that plan and the accomplishment of that plan thus far.”
If the BOE accepts the plan next month, half of the withheld funding would be allocated. A second report will be submitted at the end of the year and if that’s favorable, the rest of the money would be given to PSC. The plan involves “recapturing” first-time students, both full- and part-time. Meadows says about 1,400 students fall into that category.
Part of the recapturing plan is a volunteer faculty and staff advisement program, to keep students from falling through the cracks.
“We will track students that are that are in this cohort, to determine if they’re progressing on time,” Meadows said. “Get them finished, or graduated or transferred into one of our baccalaureate degree programs, or transferred to a university.”
Figures released from the Studer Community Institute's metro report shows only 10.5% of Escambia County residents, and 9.5% in Santa Rosa, have an associate’s degree. Meadows says the data, while mostly dealing with K-12, do help explain the dilemma that higher education in the Panhandle faces in retaining students.
“Having free and reduced [price] lunch for the majority of children in elementary and middle school; the high dropout rate in high school, the fact that the economy is still trying to improve,” said Meadows. “All of these different indicators speak to the fact that the majority of our students do not complete in the time period specified by those metrics.”
On the other side of the ledger, Meadows says what’s also noteworthy is what the report does not address.
“We are 10-13 percentage points above the national average on completion rate,” said Meadows. “Working adults, working single parents – it just takes longer in the Panhandle for a student to complete their higher education goal.”
Another challenge for Pensacola State College next year is the “Ready, Set, Work” initiative, announced last month by Gov. Rick Scott. The goal is for the 28 state colleges to boost overall graduation rates from the current 43% to 100%.
According to the performance metrics implemented this year, PSC's graduation rate was 35%. President Ed Meadows was asked where he would like to see Pensacola State College in the next five years.
“I would like to be comparing our graduation rates in the state to similar institutions to us: Daytona State, Jacksonville, Miami-Dade,” Meadows said. “I would like to see us above the state average, which would put us probably two-plus times higher than the national average in graduation and transfer rates.”