Every year, Florida's public universities present their academic metrics and compete for a pot of money set aside by the Florida Legislature. The top three universities with the most points get bonuses and the bottom three walk away with nothing.
And after Florida International University sank to No. 8 out of 11 state universities last year, FIU hustled. It paid off: The school is taking home an additional $10 million for being ranked as the No. 2 university in the state.
The Florida Board of Governors, the governing body over higher public education that had $265 million to give out this year, on Wednesday announced that FIU would walk away with a total of $40 million: $30 million for keeping up its good work, and another $10 million for breaking into the top three, the first time since the funding began in 2014.
"This is about the continuous improvement that we’ve been working on and it’s starting to pay off," said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. "It’s a function of the real commitment to student success."
FIU was singled out by the Board of Governors for its improvement. The university improved its score by 22 points since last year by decreasing the average cost to students, increasing its four-year graduation rate and retaining more students heading into their second year of school.
Rosenberg said FIU has restructured its student orientations and how it advises students through difficult courses such as math. FIU also received a financial boost in scholarship money from the Braman Foundation and matching scholarships for first-generation students.
The extra funding will go toward student services, particularly advisers for students, scholarships, 10 mental health counselors and 10 new police officers, Rosenberg said.
FIU can't afford to rest on its laurels. Universities must continuously improve or they could risk being surpassed by other institutions. Points are given in 10 categories for excellence and improvement.
The University of Florida reclaimed the top spot for the fourth year. University of North Florida, Florida A&M and New College of Florida have long occupied the bottom three.