How do you define performance? The Florida College System has carefully considered this question.

How do you define performance? The Florida College System has carefully considered this question.

With 28 public colleges across the state, the FCS helps set the national standard, excelling in affordability, graduation rates and number of associate degrees awarded.

Florida public colleges are performing well. In March, Santa Fe College in Gainesville won the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence; Indian River State College was a top 10 finalist. The prize is awarded every two years to institutions with outstanding student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. Just 150 colleges nationwide are considered for the prize, and 14 Florida colleges have been recognized with this prestigious award since its inception.

With more than 40 percent of Americaís undergraduates enrolled in community colleges, strong institutions are crucial to the nationís continued success and economic prosperity. And with roughly 98 percent of FCS graduates staying in Florida, the FCS has a $27 billion economic impact.

Still, the state must increase the capacity to serve these students by assuring an appropriate investment.

The Florida Legislature is working to define metrics for performance funding. Student retention, academic progress rate, and workforce alignment are key performance factors. However, defining what success looks like for different colleges can be challenging. Florida is such a national leader that even the college ranking last on the performance funding model will still be strong on national metrics.

The Southern Regional Educational Board, which works with 16 states to improve higher education, reported in 2012 that the Florida College Systemís performance surpassed other states in first-year student persistence rates (students who donít drop out the first year); three-year graduation rates; and number of degrees and certificates awarded.

Focusing on student success earned the FCS a national spot as an education leader while the state investment and tuition remained among the lowest in the region.

Performance funding will play a crucial role in ensuring our college system's future success, but finding the right metrics is a key factor in the model's success.

The legislature's support is vital for the FCS to continue delivering valued talent to Floridaís workforce. For this reason, the Florida College System embraces the opportunity to be measured, and will continue to maintain accountability for studentsí performance. 

Carol Probstfeld is the Florida College System Council of Presidents' co-chair and chairs the Association of Florida Colleges Policy and Advocacy Committee.

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