Florida will not be the only state to develop what perhaps appear to be novel and controversial proposals in regard to higher education funding. (photo used under Creative Commons/Stuart Seeger)
By Robert Bradley
Florida, in similar fashion to many states, is looking at a variety of ways to address its budgetary woes.
Because the governor, Rick Scott, is a Republican, and with a state legislature where Republicans are the majority in both chambers, the emphasis has been on reducing governmental spending. In the field of higher education, the state is embarking on a strategy that consists of several steps to sharply cut funding to four-year public universities.
Currently, four-year public universities in Florida are facing up to $300 million in cuts.
First, the state now calls two-year higher education institutions-state colleges-instead of community or junior colleges. The majority of the now-called state colleges offer four-year degree programs, and the state is providing incentives for those who don’t to start offering four-year degree programs in the near future. The calculus is that state colleges can offer much more affordable four-year degree programs than the typical four-year public universities.
Second, the state is actively promoting its two-year institutions to offer specifically designed four-year degrees in vocationally-oriented programs such as business management or engineering technology. Thus, students obtaining loans to attend such programs would be much likely to pay back those loans in a timely fashion.
Third, the state would cap tuition rates for identified vocational programs at state colleges at a certain level that would be substantially below the tuition rates for other degree offerings.
Fourth, the state is seriously considering tuition reductions in four-year public universities for those students who pursue undergraduate degrees in STEM-related programs. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math programs. Some argue that degrees in STEM programs lead to a greater chance of obtaining a meaningful career.
Finally, the state is considering adopting a statewide performance evaluation tool for all public universities and colleges that would be based partly on the percentage of graduates who get full-time employment and the salaries of graduates.
Supporters of these changes contend that they reflect the out-of-the-box thinking that is sorely needed to cut the amount of state contributions to higher education, and more generally eliminate the cycle of ever-increasing tuition costs. Critics argue that the changes directly alter the mission of a liberal arts education, and, if implemented, would lead Florida to become the ‘Walmart of higher education’.
However, it is clear, that Florida will not be the only state to develop what perhaps appear to be novel and controversial proposals in regard to higher education funding. Such proposals may well be discussed in the near future in the Illinois General Assembly.
Bob Bradley is solely responsible for the opinions expressed above. These opinions do not necessarily reflect those of WJBC, Radio Bloomington or Cumulus Media staff or management.
Bradley was a full-time professor in the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University where he has been since 1982. He has received several recognitions including: Carnegie Scholar for Civic Engagement, Constitution Trail Friend of the Year, and Faculty Star distinction by ISU Athletics. He dearly loves his wife, Reenie, of more than 25 years, and his daughter, Erin. He is an avid reader, devout sports enthusiast, gardener, golfer, and bird watcher.