State funding for our State University System and State College System has finally reached the level of funding appropriated eight years ago. Tuition increases and federal stimulus funds buoyed Florida’s higher education funding during that time. State funding for the State University System operating funds declined from 69% of the total to 54%. Similarly, state funding for the State College System dropped from 68% to 58% of college operating funds.
Increasing state commitment towards the percentages of 2007-08, rather than reliance of funding from tuition increases, would be a tremendous help for the higher education systems and for the students attending our higher education institutions.
In addition to increased state funding of higher education institutions, the Legislature needs to revisit performance funding at our universities and colleges until there is a thorough examination and dialogue about the costs and benefits to the state. The current university program is a rewards and punishment scheme. It does not EFFECTIVELY consider the unique mission of our universities. UFF will look to develop a more proactive stance on this issue.
We are concerned that base funding is at risk in the current formula, and there have been discussions about performance funding being non-recurring. UFF does not and will not concur in the premise that performance funding is non-recurring revenue. These funds must recur if the programs established by the performance funds are to continue. UFF knows that universities and colleges cannot operate without recurring funding sources that guarantee serving the entire state and the public good. Policies that threaten existing base funding when there is no fiscal crisis are short-sighted and harmful to providing higher education opportunities in all areas of our great state.
UFF opposes performance funding and its expansion as long as there is a punitive component and a system that does not recognize the differences existing between universities and between colleges. We support an authentic recognition of quality. We support recognizing that each university and college has a unique mission and a unique set of strengths that could be developed with adequate funding. That is quality.
Therefore, UFF opposes SB 524 by Senator Gaetz and HB 7043 filed by the House Education Committee and Representative Fresen. These bills would codify performance funding prior to any thorough analysis of its benefits and/or problems and prescribes, by law, the continued adoption of performance metrics to the Board of Governors for universities and the State Board of Education for colleges. The design and implementation of the metrics should be the purview of the BOG for universities and the SBE for colleges but only after thorough vetting with the stakeholder institutions, their boards of trustees, their administration and their faculties. Performance funding should be a coordinated and collaborative undertaking. Institutions not meeting goals should formulate improvement plans that receive review from all stakeholders at that institution but no college or university should receive any loss from their base funding, except during a statewide financial crisis.