Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Political meddling ill serves state colleges

Perhaps state Sen. Joe Negron is right that some state colleges are guilty of mission creep in rushing to offer four-year degree programs. But his solution — to strip authority from the Board of Education to approve new bachelor degree programs for state colleges and force them to reduce their tuition for those programs — is another example of bad higher education policy on the fly. More than 10 years after embarking on this experiment, it is time for a thoughtful assessment of how four-year degrees at state colleges are working. But Negron, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, would further politicize and diffuse higher education governance when what is needed is a common vision and more financial investment.

Negron added language to a Senate bill dealing with tuition increases that would prevent the Board of Education from approving more four-year degree programs at state colleges, formerly known as community colleges. A dozen years after St. Petersburg College first won the right to offer a limited number of bachelor's degrees, 24 colleges now have approval for 175 different degrees. Negron contends at least some of those programs have strayed from the Legislature's original intent that colleges would offer four-year degrees to meet workforce needs in their communities, such as in nursing or technology.

Colleges and universities are notorious for chasing financial incentives whenever the Legislature offers them, particularly because they are shortchanged on base funding. By offering upper-level classes, state colleges receive slightly higher state subsidies for those classes and can charge more tuition. At St. Petersburg College, for example, tuition for upper-level courses is about 10 percent more — though less than at the University of South Florida.

Negron wants to eliminate that incentive. He would force state colleges to charge the same tuition for both upper and lower-level work and strip $3.4 million from state colleges' four-year degree budgets to give to the University of Florida and Florida State University. He says more investment is needed there to build elite universities that compete with those in other states. But the answer is not to take from the colleges to give to two universities with powerful supporters in the Legislature.

Negron's singular focus on state college's offerings — without consideration of what needs they may be fulfilling or how they have increased higher education access — illustrates how Tallahassee micromanages education. Florida should be less concerned about where students are getting bachelor's degrees and more concerned with making those degrees accessible. Even as Tampa Bay has the University of South Florida, for example, St. Petersburg College has a niche that overwhelmingly serves working students over 25 years old. Last year it awarded 1,200 bachelor's degrees, mostly in fields like nursing, education or business.

Negron, R-Stuart, is right that Florida needs to invest more in state universities. But he should push for better coordination throughout the higher education system to eliminate duplication. The universities' Board of Governors should also have authority over state colleges, because the state's public school system is plenty of work for the Board of Education. Negron even could lead the charge among his Republican colleagues to forgo special interest tax breaks so that Florida collects the state revenue needed to adequately fund education, including higher education. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul while further politicizing the process only makes things worse.

Comments

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18