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Florida higher education reform needs perspective, columnist writes



As Florida lawmakers head back to session, much talk has centered on making changes to the state's higher education system. Discussion has turned on refocusing degree programs promote a high-tech economy, as well as altering contractual arrangements for professors. Times columnist Jim Verhulst writes a column for the paper's annual For a Better Florida section that gives lawmakers, and those talking to them, something to chew on as they consider any reforms.

"From Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math degrees — is seen as the pathway to making Florida a high-tech haven with university students graduating into jobs that pay well, or at least into jobs. And some leaders vilify the liberal arts now that anecdotes abound of students graduating with debt and esoteric degrees but few marketable skills.

But this narrative, while containing some truth, sets up a series of false choices:

• STEM versus liberal arts, as if there were no middle ground.

• College as a meal ticket to a good job versus a university as a training ground for the next generation of leaders and citizens.

• Raising Florida tuition that is mischaracterized by the governor as too high versus investing more tax money in higher education (and stopping the spending cuts).

In each case, the reality — as well as the solution — lies between the extremes."

Read the full column and share your thoughts on tuition, degree programs, and the quality of Florida's colleges and universities. What does the state need to do to ensure it doesn't get left behind?

(The weekend interview will resume soon. Suggested candidates are welcome.)

[Last modified: Saturday, January 7, 2012 7:29am]


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