MIAMI – Numerous students begin, but often fail to complete, the college journey, rendering them unable to reap the benefits that possessing a college degree can bring. There are many programs to help students who might otherwise never consider college to actually enroll. Enrolling, however, is only a part of the college equation. Graduation must also be a main priority.
Florida International University is attempting to boost the number of students graduating from the Miami-based institution with help from $25 million in performance funds for the 2016-2017 year.
The amount is FIU’s latest award for excellence or improvement on the metrics put forward in 2014 by the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System of Florida. The Governor and Legislature codified the Board’s metrics into law in 2016 and directed $500 million toward the model, including a $225 million state investment that universities matched with $275 million. FIU made the most gains in 2014-15 in areas that included the six-year graduation rate for first time in college students, academic progress rate and median wages for bachelor’s graduates working full-time in Florida.
“Each year, our universities are demonstrating remarkable improvements, raising the bar on their commitments to student success and the success of our graduates,” said Board of Governors’ Chair Tom Kuntz, who was key in developing the metrics. “Thanks to the support from the Governor and Legislature, the service to our students, our employers, and our state is unprecedented.”
The money will go toward university initiatives that improve performance success for students, which include graduation and retention rates and post-graduation success. The model has yielded huge successes for the State University System, including a 30 percent increase in the number of students pursuing STEM degrees and a graduation rate that is top in the country among the 10 largest states.
Across the System, universities have implemented a variety of innovative new strategies to improve their services to students, including strengthening their career resource centers and investing in new tracking software that notifies an advisor when a student needs help.
FIU has invested resources strategically. It has allocated funds with an eye toward performance metrics and the success of students, as well as critical investments and library resources. “We get it,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are educating students who have the skills to compete in today’s marketplace and, by doing so, will boost the economy of our region and of our state.”
FIU has an ambitious goal of achieving a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent by 2020 and has created new student support programs to reach that goal, investing in enhanced academic advising and in assisting students secure internships and jobs.
The university also redesigned 17 gate- way courses, infusing many of them with technology. One of the most promising initiatives is the Mastery Math Lab. It has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the pass rate of college algebra, which has traditionally challenged many students.
At the System level, five of the eight performance-based funding metrics that are common to all universities show improvement over last year’s data. The five metrics are: Median Wages of Bachelor’s Graduates Employed Full-time in Florida; SixYear Graduation Rates; Academic Progress (Retention) Rates; Percentage of Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded within Programs of Strategic Emphasis; Percentage