Monday, December 18, 2017
Education

Gov. Rick Scott creates 'blue ribbbon' task force to study university system

TALLAHASSEE — After rejecting university leaders' requests for more funding and vetoing a proposal to allow some universities to impose unlimited tuition increases, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced a task force to evaluate the state's university system and suggest ideas for reform.

"The state has a vested interest in ensuring its higher education system produces world-class talent," Scott said in a press release. "It's time to assess the progress of prior reform efforts and identify strategies to improve efficiencies and enhance the system's effectiveness as an economic catalyst."

The seven-member "Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform" will be chaired by Dr. Dale Brill, a Florida State University faculty member and president of the Florida Chamber Foundation.

The Board of Governors, which oversees the state's university system, appointed board member Joe Caruncho and University of North Florida President John Delaney to the task force. Legislative leaders will select the other four members.

The group is expected to deliver recommendations in writing by Nov. 15.

Dean Colson, chair of the Board of Governors, said he welcomes the task force and hopes it will help accelerate goals the board has already set.

Those include increasing the number of degrees the university system awards and having at least five of its 11 universities ranked in the top 50 nationally.

Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, say they haven't narrowed down whom they will appoint, but they want their candidates to focus on helping graduates get jobs in their degree fields.

"Sometimes it's helpful to have a fresh view from outside the ivory tower," Gaetz said.

Scott recently signed into law a controversial proposal to create Florida Polytechnic, the state's 12th university. And he signed a state budget that slices $300 million from university funding.

Scott delivered a fresh blow to university officials last week when he vetoed a proposal to allow unlimited tuition hikes at universities that met 11 of 14 performance-based benchmarks. The criteria included high GPAs of incoming freshmen and a high amount of research activity. Only the University of Florida and Florida State University would have qualified. In his veto letter, Scott said he was uneasy about raising tuition when so many graduates are unemployed and saddled with debt.

Higher education will again be heavily debated in the 2013 legislative session, and the purpose of the board is to come up with fresh ideas, Weatherford said.

"It bodes well for us to come with solutions everyone can live with," he said.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected]

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