Yet another higher education task force makes its debut
A new task force has just been set up to study higher education in Florida.
No, not that one.
Or that one.
Or that one.
This new group, set up by the Florida Board of Governors, will study a statewide need for future baccalaureate degree attainment, board Chair Dean Colson wrote in a letter to higher education leaders Wednesday.
"With the emergence of other task forces, some may question whether we need another group studying higher education. I am of the opinion that now is the time to focus on the crucial issue of capacity," Colson wrote.
The board's recently released new strategic plan, taking the state university system through the year 2025, calls for an increase of 37,000 baccalaureate graduates per year during that time frame. This task force's job will be to figure out whether the pipeline from K-12 education will produce a sufficient number of college-ready students to meet those goals, whether the state universities or colleges have the capacity to serve them and whether there's a need for any additional universities or colleges, among other issues.
It comes at an interesting time, on the heels of a Blue Ribbon task force set up by Gov. Rick Scott a couple weeks ago with the charge to examine the university system and come up with ways to make it better.
It also comes as state university leaders are getting ready to add a 12th university to their ranks without studying the need for it: the new Florida Polytechnic. Split off from the University of South Florida's branch campus in Lakeland, the new university is supposed to serve students in science, technology, engineering and math fields. It was pushed by Sen. JD Alexander and signed off by Scott a couple weeks ago. The Board of Governors talked about the idea at two meetings last year, signing off on the idea at the second of those. The board, however, set up a number of benchmarks the new university would have had to meet before becoming independent, while the bill signed by Scott creates the school right away.
This new task force harkens back to another somewhat controversial discussion in the higher education world -- an evaluation done in 2007 that was meant to suggest a "blueprint" for where the system should go in the future. Widely called the "Pappas Report," named for the outside consultant hired to complete it (paid for with several then-Board of Governors members' own money), the conclusion was that the state needed to find new ways to offer baccalaureate degrees. That included an expansion of the role of state colleges, and the idea to create a "tiered system" of institutions that ruffled feathers.
Creating new universities was deemed a last resort among the suggestions.
Members of the new task force include:
- Board of Governors member and former Board Chair Ava L. Parker, who will chair the group
- Current Chair Dean Colson
- Kathleen Shanahan of Tampa, the chair of the State Board of Education
- State Rep. William L. “Bill” Proctor of St. Augustine
- Thomas G. Kuntz of Orlando, another Board of Governors member and the geographic banking executive of SunTrust Banks
- Marshall M. Criser, III of Miami, the co-chair of the Higher Education Coordinating Council, a University of Florida trustee and the president of AT&T Florida
- Susan Pareigis of Tampa, the president of the Florida Council of 100.
- The student and faculty Board of Governors representatives will serve as ex-officio advisers