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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Thrasher says splitting USF Poly would be first step for education reform



 We're just about an hour away from the much-anticipated discussion at the Florida Board of Governors about whether to make the University of South Florida Polytechnic independent. The debate has powerful players on both sides, with a new one emerging just this morning: Sen. John Thrasher, from St. Augustine. 

In an interesting Orlando Sentinel letter today, Thrasher says that splitting USF Poly off and making it the state's 12th university is the first step in educational reforms for Florida's next generation.

"By offering science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees through the unmatched polytechnic degree system to Florida students, and for a fraction of the cost of comparable polytechnic schools across the country, we can give Florida students and workers an educational experience that readies them to land well-paying jobs, and build a work force that will draw businesses to Florida, creating jobs and prosperity," Thrasher wrote.

It's an interesting argument because Florida's existing public universities already offer those degrees. And saying that the new polytechnic would offer programs at a fraction of the cost of other polytechnics around the country defies what is laid out in USF Poly's secession plan. The plan offers a direct comparison between USF Poly's current tuition and polytechnics around the country that charge twice, three times or even four times the tuition rate in a section explaining why USF Poly would need to charge higher "market-rate" prices. It's unclear exactly how much more USF Poly wants to charge.

It's also unclear how much splitting USF Poly off would cost the state, with the plan first saying that it would cost nothing, then pages later saying that starting in 2017, USF Poly would need an extra $222 million.

Still, Thrasher says an independent polytechnic in Florida would be a "legacy" that Florida's next generation deserves.

"When we have left public life and the next generation of elected officials take charge of overseeing Florida's education system, only one question matters: Did we do right by our children and grandchildren?"

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 1:15pm]


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