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Governor's higher ed task force holds first meeting

A panel created by Governor Rick Scott to conduct a review of Florida’s public universities met for the first time Wednesday to start reviewing the university system’s governance model and the relationship between the Board of Governors and the universities.  Scott created the panel after vetoing a bill that would have let Florida State and the University of Florida charge higher tuition rates than the other state schools.

 “We did a lot of research in framing House Bill 7135 and 7129 and I hope some of that research and study will be helpful to the task force,” said State Representative Bill Proctor. Proctor is the Chancellor of Flagler College and crafted the tuition proposal.

Also on the Governor’s higher education panel are representatives from the state university system’s Board of Governors. Shortly after Scott announced the formation of the group, the Board’s Chairman Dean Colson, noted that the Board already had a plan in place for the future of the state university system. Representing the board on the Governor’s panel is Joe Caruncho.

 “It seems that we got a lot of work done recently and this seemed like a great opportunity to put that together with a lot of the other work that’s been done," Caruncho said. That “other work” includes the recently-vetoed tuition bill. Caruncho also said his concern is balancing how to finance higher education while keeping it affordable for families.

The Florida Chamber’s Dale Brill is chairing Scott’s task force. Brill says he doesn’t want the Governor’s group to interfere with the work being done by the Board of Governors. He also told members of the Governor’s panel that he plans to draw on previous studies and recommendations on the state university system.

 “We can then make quick order in the first workshop in going about the business of cataloging and consolidating some of the recommendations already on the record,” he said.

That information includes data on degree production in science, technology, engineering and math. One study Brill specifically cited is called the “Pappas Report” which, when initially unveiled several years ago, created an outcry from the universities for recommending that the schools be sorted into a tiered system: with some offering only bachelor’s degrees, while others could offer master’s and doctoral programs. The Governor’s Task Force will meet again in June to begin its review of the state university system.