State universities are Florida’s success story

Florida’s public university students are achieving a higher level of success than they were five years ago. Students are succeeding in their classes, pursuing degrees in STEM and other high-demand fields, and graduating with higher wage jobs. And, for many students, the cost of attendance is less.

This is the success story of the State University System and the result of performance funding. In 2014, the Board of Governors first implemented performance funding to reward excellence and year-over-year improvements in metrics such as student retention, graduation rates, and student success after graduation. Since then, the governor and Legislature have injected $225 million into Florida’s 12 public universities to support these achievements.

Universities hired hundreds of advisers and career counselors, built new career resource centers, and invested in tracking software to assist in student success. The University of West Florida called every student who was close to graduation to ask how they could help these students cross the finish line. Florida Atlantic University built a career counseling office in their parking garage for their commuter students. In other words, universities took responsibility for student outcomes. And in a system with 341,000 students — the second largest in the country — universities began to move the needle in a positive direction.

Soon, Florida’s graduation rates climbed to the highest among the 10 largest states. Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) degrees grew by 31 percent, and health degrees grew by 52 percent. In fact, the State University System has seen consistent gains on six out of eight performance metrics, setting the standard for university accountability, efficiency, and excellence.

The case is compelling, which is why the Board of Governors and State University System recently rallied at the Capitol for performance funding and other student success initiatives. We’ve seen the results, and we know the impact they have on our students. Now we must continue pushing forward.

Marshall Criser III is chancellor of the State University System of Florida.