The results of the Performance Based Funding Metrics for Florida’s 11 state universities have been released, and it’s good news for the University of West Florida. That has not always been the case. The first year the funding metrics were used, UWF only 21 out of 50 possible points, which was the lowest of all universities in the state. This year, the story is very different. "We are at 86 of a possible 100 points! That is the highest amount that the university has reached so far" said UWF President Dr. Martha Saunders. That is the third highest score in the state, behind the University of Florida and Florida International. Last year UFW was also the third highest in the system. However, this year the university tied Florida State and the University of South Florida for the third spot.
The funding metrics became law in Florida in 2014, with universities gaining, or in some cases losing funding depending on their scores. The metrics are based on 10 separate areas. These include retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, cost to students, graduation rates, bachelor’s degree holders who are employed a year after graduation and their wages, student’s access to Pell grants and a few other that really get in the weeds. Dr. Saunders says that some of the program put into place after the initial metric are paying off. "It takes a while for even the best initiatives to take hold. We certainly invested heavily in student support, in a variety of ways. One is more advising. And then better advising, in that we added a lot of technology and more software to help our advisors to advise better." Saunders says students are now given more warnings if their professors see they are falling behind. There is an added emphasis on tutoring students who need help, and on financial aid. "No student should have to drop out because of money. So we are really refining how we award financial aid. And we've gotten some wonderful gifts from university supporters to help us with scholarships."
In fact the cost to students is where the university improved the most, going from 2 points last year to the full 10 points in the new report. In the end, UWF’s ranking means 22.7 million dollars from the state. Dr. Saunders says that there was uncertainty at UWF and the other universities in the state when the funding metrics were first put into place, they now see them as an opportunity. "It was scary. It was something that, overnight, was visited on us and we had a lot at stake. If we did not win when they measure the metrics then we would lose money. And you lose money a time or two then you've got a whole different set of challenges."
One area that dropped just a bit this year was the number of degree holders who were employed a year after graduation. Dr. Saunders says that could be because some graduates were from Alabama and that state does not report employment information. They will be diving deep into the data for the answer to that and other questions UWF faces in the coming years.