As a former Student Body President at the University of South Florida, I still follow higher education issues from afar. Several media outlets are reporting on a study released yesterday by the Board of Governors that proposes changes to the higher education system.
There are a number of decent suggestions, and not all of them are new.
In the 1990′s, the now-defunct Board of Regents proposed setting the State Universities into three “tiers”: Florida, Florida State, and South Florida would be in Tier I because of the significant amount of research; Central Florida, Florida International, and Florida Atlantic would be in Tier II because of their mix of graduate and undergraduate education; and West Florida, North Florida, and Florida Gulf Coast would be in Tier III with a focus on undergraduate education. Florida A & M had a special designation because of its “historically black” status.
The new proposal also calls for a three tier system, but from a broader picture. The top tier would be the eleven state universities. The bottom tier would be Florida’s community colleges. The new middle tier of state colleges would be open to community colleges, private institutions, universities, and branch campuses of state universities – if their undergraduate enrollment reaches 7,500 students.
This is not a bad idea. The University of South Florida could see it’s St. Petersburg campus morph into a state college. So could St. Pete College and Hillsborough Community College.
There could be a problem, however, if too many community colleges become state colleges, and tuition costs increase. Would the state provide some limitations to ensure that affordable education exists in those communities?
The Board of Governors has not put these suggestions into a plan of action, and the Florida Legislature will be involved as well. However, unlike the prior Board of Regents proposal, this suggestion could be accepted because it allows for choice by the institution: they aren’t forced into a specific category.
It is an interesting proposal, however.