Putting Education Reform To The Test

Board Of Governors Chairman: ‘Good’ Is Not Good Enough For Florida Universities

University of Miami School of Law/flickr

BOG Chairman Dean Colson says the State University System is doing more with less, but the decline in state funding is not sustainable.

Florida Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson had much to brag about in his State of the System address this morning.

He told the people who govern the State University System that Florida’s universities are affordable, a good value, and excelling in graduation rates.

But Colson said, “If you want our system truly to serve as an economic engine for the state, we must have the resources to recruit the best and the brightest.  Simply being ‘good’ is not good enough.”

He talked about cuts in funding as more students seek higher education.

As state funding for universities has dropped by more than a billion dollars over the last six years, “System enrollment grew by 9% — an increase of over 35,000 students.” Colson said. “In essence, our System has grown by the equivalent of a sizable university while losing enough state funding to support an entire university.”

Colson said the universities are more efficient than ever, but the decline in funding is not sustainable.

Colson offered ways that System is providing a good return on investment for the state:

  • Ranked in the top ten nationally for six-year graduation rates.
  • Ranked in the top five states for public university Research and Development with $1.76 billion in research expenditures.
  • Ranked 3rd among all university systems in the US for undergraduate STEM degree production, and STEM degree production increased almost 30% in the past four years.
  • An annual statewide economic impact of $80 billion – contributing more than 7% to the state’s gross domestic product and helping fuel more than 770,000 jobs.
  • The State University System remains very affordable, with the 9th lowest tuition in the country.

And here are the not so great statistics:

  • Half of our institutions have six-year graduation rates below 50%.
  • Our System continues to lag behind on the number of national academy members.   As a state, we rank 17th   — well below the top public institutions.
  • In the last six years, state support per student has dropped from 70% to 44% for the System—which translates to a loss of more than a billion dollars, including $300 million this year alone.

Other highlights from Colson’s speech:

Everyone in the state, including me, has been pushing our universities to produce more STEM graduates.  From my viewpoint, that is not to suggest that the humanities are not important.  I don’t think anyone is interested in raising a generation that has no appreciation for literature, history or the arts. 

We need to strongly support the Humanities, but we should also provide our students and parents the information they need on future job prospects so that if they decide to travel that path they are doing so knowing what lies ahead.

I also believe that all Humanities graduates should have a basic grounding in STEM, and all STEM graduates should have a basic grounding in Humanities. 

That’s why the work that we’re doing with the Florida College System to implement a common, general education core of courses that all undergraduates in Florida’s public colleges and universities must take is so important.


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