FAU Will Probably Lose $7 Million in Funding for Abysmal Performance

Wikimedia Commons, via KnightLago
This library is full of people who won't graduate and who probably have low GPAs.
It's hard to believe that there are 12 universities in Florida's system. We can remember UF and FSU, no problem (go sports!), but the rest might as well be alphabet soup. FGCU? UWF? FAMU?

But at the bottom of the pile is our very own FAU, according to an analysis conducted by the Board of Governors. This body was just tasked with divvying up $100 million in funds among the schools, and its members decided to use a performance-based model rather than splitting it evenly.

As punishment, Florida Atlantic University will have $7 million in funding redistributed to other institutions in the system.

This isn't the first time that Boca's university has been told to shape up this year. Back in February, the Tampa Bay Times reported that FAU was poised to lose 1 percent of its total funding because it scored below a threshold based on ten criteria.

All 12 of the schools were graded with a system that awards points for high graduation rates, the number of students employed after graduation, the number of students receiving Pell grants, and the number of STEM degrees awarded, among other things.

FAU lost $1.4 million for scoring only 24 out of 50 points. (UWF and New College lost money as well.) Now, with this second round of funding, it's lost the chance to grab its piece of $100 million.

But all hope is not lost. The money can be restored if there's improvement.

"Our goal is not to take money away from any institution," the chancellor of the State University System, Marshall Criser, told the student paper at FAU. "What I believe that this plan does is demonstrates the state university system understands the importance of investing students' dollars and taxpayers' dollars in the quality of the education we provide for our students."

Last week, FAU released its plan, and it shows exactly why the school scored so poorly. Apparently zero points were awarded in the areas of graduation rate and second-year retention of students. The school scored pretty dismally in those metrics, its 42 percent graduation rate beating out only FAMU. Thirty percent of students enter their second year with a GPA below 2.0.

To combat this, FAU will hire 26 new academic advisers by May 2015. It will also install a schoolwide advising system that will help track at-risk students, develop "flight plans" to help students take the quickest path from A to Degree, launch a degree program in "general studies," and force undeclared students to take a life-planning class.

Although it doesn't seem like it makes sense to take away money from poorly performing universities, it's actually the right move. The Board of Governors' plan isn't the same thing as docking a public school teacher pay for low student performance on tests like the FCAT. This isn't kicking somebody who's already down or punishing someone for factors beyond his or her ultimate control.

Money is the ultimate motivator, and if schools like FAU are failing their students, they need to be held accountable. If withholding funds from them until they come up with an action plan that promotes student success is what it takes, so be it.

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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*In some cases, courses required to graduate are only taught once a year and/or only taught by one professor with a cap that is disproportional to the number of people who need to take it.

Apparently the edit didn't take...


As a final note, I find it incredibly convenient that the man who drafted the new funding system requirements, Michael Criser III, is a UF alum and his alma mater JUST SO HAPPENS to qualify for the MOST money under his system. And how would he know their strengths? Oh that's right: because he served as the vice chairman for the University of Florida's Board of Trustees.


Third, FAU set into motion policies decades ago that allowed "increased access to higher education" and extended that to a significant population of part-time students who are not taking full course loads. If you're only taking two courses a semester because you need to work/take care of a family/can't afford it, you're not going to graduate in four years. That's not a knock on them at all, it's just a fact. When you compare FAU and UF's part-time student populations, it explains a lot about the differences in their four and six year graduation rates. UF is not worried about the 40 year old who wants to change careers but FAU is and that creates a political problem when you try to realign your educational focus to more traditional students because then the community and the students cry out that you're neglecting the part-timers. Still, FAU has weathered harsher PR storms recently than that and could do more to re-balance the scales in this area.

I'm not saying FAU is wholly innocent here. The university needs major changes and President Kelly will undoubtedly focus all his attention on this. Consultants need to be hired. Faculty need to be retained and hired. Courses need to be expanded. Buildings need to be constructed. Admissions policies need to be adjusted. And so on.


Second of all, FAU has been criticized in the past for its lax admissions policies and in response has incrementally been increasing its admissions requirements.

Currently FAU requires a minimum GPA of 2.6, up from 2.0 at other universities, and will likely climb into the 2.8-3.0 range in the next decade.

For Fall 2013, the average GPA of entering freshmen was 3.5, the highest its been since at least 1972, and up from 3.1 in 2008. Similarly, the admissions rate was 55% in 2007-2008 and dropped to a far more respectable 39% in 2012-2013. 

The point being that it's harder to get into FAU than it ever has been and the kind of incoming student is much better than it ever has been.

The rub, as they say, is that these students are often deadset on UF and FSU, having been so since starting high school, and use a year of FAU as a stepping stone to transfer into the state's most well-funded universities. It is significantly easier to transfer into those universities from an existing college than to land admissions outright as a high school senior.

So you have students who never intended to finish at FAU transferring out after their first or second years for reasons that are absolutely beyond FAU's control. If you are deadset on being a Gator, what exactly is FAU supposed to do to keep you in Boca? That's not addressed by the media because the media is completely oblivious to this.


"This library is full of people who won't graduate and who probably have low GPAs" is a completely unprofessional tagline for that picture. Get it together.

FAU clearly has to clean up its graduation and retention rates, although it's important to understand why they're in this situation in the first place.

First of all, and worst of all, FAU has hired too many administrators versus too few advisers and professors. It is completely upside down in this respect, and although the university has hired more advisers recently it has not significantly pared down its excess of dead weight and for this they should be rightfully crucified. Courses offered at the underclassmen level are plentiful but narrow significantly at the upperclasssmen level; in some cases, courses required to graduate are only taught once a year and/or only taught by one professor with a cap that is disproportional to the number of people seeking it. Ergo, there are students who are willing and able to take classes but have to wait around for a semester or a year until they can get the last class they need.

KennyPowersII topcommenter

GIGO. My alma mater is an embarrassment. The original mission statement included a wish to be the new Harvard of the South circa 1963. WTF happened along the way?


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Robb Erwin
Robb Erwin

Seems like FAU policy has been driven by political and business people in recent years, instead of professionals with strong educational backgrounds. That might be great for their so-called business partnerships, but not so much for educational performance. Hopefully that will improve soon.

Rachel R Levy Lewis
Rachel R Levy Lewis

Can you please provide a link to the report for all of the universities? Also, FAU should really invest more in their application/acceptance process.

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