Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida higher ed losing ground

In the past decade, Florida has changed how it governs state universities, adopted new tuition policies, embraced online learning and found efficiencies that have outsiders marveling at how it does so well with so little. But the fact remains that the state's perpetual underinvestment in higher education means it is losing ground to other states. No amount of micromanaging by Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders has changed that dynamic. Florida's 12 universities need more resources — ideally from both the state and tuition.

As Florida begins its hunt for a new State University System chancellor, the system is in better shape than just two years ago, Board of Governors chairman Dean Colson, a Miami attorney, told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Monday. A divisive lawsuit with the Legislature over the authority to set tuition has been settled, state funding — after dropping precipitously — has rebounded somewhat, and state leaders are communicating better.

But the damage from budget cuts is significant. Just last month, for example, the Gainesville Sun reported how five years of budget cutting led to a 50 percent drop in faculty for one of the University of Florida's most popular majors: psychology. The result, according to professors, is that average class sizes in mid-level courses have jumped from 30 to 150; research grants are down 90 percent; and the department has fallen out of the National Research Council's 50 best. It led one retiring professor to wonder how UF could achieve top 10 status as a public university if one of its most popular departments isn't even in the top 50.

Changing the dynamic, Colson agrees, will take more money — be it from the state, students or private donations. And while the Legislature agreed this year to provide $15 million in additional state money for UF annually for the next five years toward improving its academic standing, that won't be nearly enough to make a real difference. Nor does the scheme address the broader needs of the entire system.

Scott and state lawmakers need to accept that nothing they may try to do in Tallahassee — be it coming up with gimmicky $10,000 bachelor degrees at colleges or new accountability matrixes — will make up for the fact that Florida universities have far fewer dollars to spend per student than those in other states. The governor, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz talk about wanting to improve the state universities. But until they back it up with investment, it's just rhetoric.

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‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18