Florida Government Turns its Back on Public Universities (Except for One)

Sunday, March 18, 2012
JD Alexander
The Florida legislature decided last week to cut funding for the state’s public universities by $300 million next year–even as it agreed to spend money on one powerful member’s plan to establish a new university in his home county. Such cuts are nothing new to Florida, which already spends the least in the nation per capita on higher education. Since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007, Florida has cut funding for higher education by $544 million, or about one-third, even as enrollment increased by more than one-third, from 286,755 to 383,629, and tuition was raised by about one-quarter. During that same period, Florida lost more than 10,000 high-tech jobs, as tech companies complain that Florida’s underfunded educational system produces too few graduates with advanced skills.
However, the budget does include money that would pay for speeding up the creation of Florida’s twelfth public university, to be located in Polk County, the home of the Senate budget chairman, Republican JD Alexander. Since 1988, Polk has been home to USF Polytechnic, a small branch campus of the Tampa-based University of South Florida. The campus was supposed to become independent gradually, as it added programs and enhanced quality, but Alexander used his position in the Senate to ram through funding for its independence as of August 2012, despite the fact that, according to an editorial in the Tampa Tribune, “there has never been a cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate the need for a new university.” Accelerating its independence will also raise the cost of obtaining accreditation for the new university.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
In Florida, Higher Education “Treated Disdainfully” (by Howard Goodman, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting)
Florida universities face $300 million budget cut (by Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel)

Legislature Continues Record of Disinvesting in Higher Education (Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy) (pdf) 


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