Friday, February 24, 2012

In Florida the Policy on Higher Education: Cut State Support, Deny Tuition Increases and Create a New State College

Maybe the Legislature Needs a Higher Education

Colleges and Universities are wasteful and inefficient.  They have bloated administrations, unproductive tenured faculty members and their costs have been rising faster than general inflation for decades.  But college and universities are essential for an economic system, they fuel growth and development, they make  the workforce more productive and they enhance the culture of the nation.  They are also one of the few portals through which men and women whose parents are not wealthy can enter into a life of financial success.

In spite of all of this, or maybe because state colleges and universities serve ordinary citizens, the Republican legislature of Florida has been cutting state support of public higher education for years.

The cuts in Florida began four years ago and have continued unabated. Since 2008, state spending on education has dropped by 24 percent and is now at 2003 levels. Meanwhile, universities have raised tuition every year, putting many students in a financial bind. Florida’s 11 public universities have been raising tuition 15 percent a year for the past four years, and some of them for five years, although they still rank among the least expensive in the nation.

The current impetus in the state is to cut even more.

A proposal in the House would reduce state financing by nearly $250 million next year and would allow universities to increase tuition by as little as 8 percent and as much as 15 percent. A measure in the Senate would cut more than $500 million and would allow smaller institutions that are defined as colleges to raise tuition by 3 percent (the full-scale universities would not be permitted to raise tuition).

But as one would notice, the state legislature knows that raising tuition is not popular, so they would put limits on that.  So what happens if financial support for the colleges is cut and tuition is not raised.  Hm, maybe the schools would have to cut back resources for higher education.  Yep, that must be it.

So given a legislative climate highly hostile to higher education, why would the state consider adding a 12th college to the lineup. 

Mr. Alexander, who is serving out his final year in the Senate because of term limits, has pushed for independence for the Lakeland campus, the University of South Florida Polytechnic, which has 4,400 students. He wants to make it the state’s 12th university, but the University of South Florida opposes the idea.

See, if the colleges and universities are already administratively bloated, why would someone want to add to that problem?  Oh, that’s right we are dealing with egomaniacal politicians who think government serves to glorify them.

“The whole notion that we would set up a 12th university when we are cutting the budget for the other 11 is ridiculous,” said Pam Iorio, who served two terms as Tampa’s mayor and left the job last year. “This is just something that he wants. He wants it as a legacy project, to be able to leave office and to say in his hometown that this university was created by him.”

And just to show he is serious, State Senator Alexander has targeted the University of South Florida because of its opposition to the glorification of State Senator Alexander

For some universities, the situation is dire. The University of South Florida in Tampa stands to lose a crippling 58 percent of its financing under the Senate bill. It was singled out as the result of a fight with Senator JD Alexander, chairman of the Budget Committee, over the university’s unwillingness to sever its ties with its Lakeland branch.

As for the state’s conservative governor, this is about all he has to say

The governor also strongly opposes letting universities raise tuition again.

Presumably this policy of cutting support for the future is popular with Florida's wealthy retirement citizens.  After all, they got theirs, why should they care anything about those coming after them.  Really, they are not called the "selfish generation" for nothing.

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