Two years ago, Florida A&M University scored 65 out of a possible 100 points in the State System of Florida’s performance-based funding model, securing more than $25 million extra in funding for meeting achievement and improvement benchmarks in several categories of institutional outcomes.
This year, FAMU made significant gains in retention, four-year and six-year graduation rates, graduates finding jobs or enrolling in graduate school and reduced costs to degrees. It even achieved its highest-ever score in since the performance-based funding model was introduced in 2014.
And it still finished second-to-last among all system institutions, securing no extra funding and just $14 million in state appropriations.
“We acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do. I want to reiterate to our stakeholders that we have the appropriate level of focus on improving student success,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “We will be even more aggressive this year as we move to implement our Four-Year Graduation Plan and improve performance on licensure exams.”
“Last year FAMU received a 65,” Rep. Ramon Alexander said. “We received a 65 again and we got penalized. Every time FAMU goes up, they change the game in the middle of the game. We have to push the reset button. And we have to figure out how to function. The system is designed for Florida A&M University to fail.”
It is true that the deck is stacked against schools like FAMU, Tennessee State and others facing dueling objectives of enrolling low-income students, graduating them within six years and helping them to secure jobs with decent earnings right out of college. And they have to do these things while working to secure research funding and build STEM capacity without additional resources. When free community college programs are introduced, the task becomes even more difficult.
But when the deck is stacked, it becomes imperative for HBCUs to play the cards perfectly until the rules of the game are changed. For now, it’s hard to hear that FAMU is missing out of performance-based funding even when it is performing well, but coverage of its more than $765,000 invested in new turf for its football stadium, and scrambled to cover more than $1 million in unexpected and miscellaneous athletic deficits attracts widespread attention.
Fundraising at FAMU has to keep up with the Florida Board of Governors’ shell game of funding, and its primary focus must be student support to continue gains made in retention and graduation. Ebbs and flows in enrollment will kill FAMU’s chances at additional resources, which already took a major blow this year in capital funding for its new student center.
FAMU can beat the system, even when its designed against it and to benefit Florida State University and the University of Florida’s efforts to be nationally preeminent among state research institutions. But it begins with priorities of strategic investment and cultivating support around the university’s most pressing needs.
Because fast turf won’t help the school outrun the BOG’s efforts to throw FAMU in the trick bag on an annual basis.