Florida needs a 12th university. At least, that’s what chancellor of the State University System Mark Rosenberg thinks. Citing reasons such as an increase in the state’s population, which has most likely contributed to the rise in the number of Florida’s high school graduates, Rosenberg told the Orlando Sentinel that many of Florida’s universities are “at the tipping point” with regard to the quality of education they provide.
But why should the state add more new schools when the ones that it already has are not as good as they could be?
Each year, U.S. News and World Report releases a list called the Top Public National Universities. According to its Web site, U.S. News and World Report ranks each school in “15 areas related to academic excellence.”
Only two of the eleven Florida schools ranked in the top 60: the University of Florida at 16 and Florida State University in a five-way tie for 52. These schools are the two oldest in the state, and it seems that the older a school is, the better quality of education it produces.
The reasons why are obvious. The older a school is, the more established and developed it is. Building a worthwhile university is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. New universities have the task of developing and staffing academic programs before they can even begin to consider expansion or other hallmarks of respected
universities, such as a recognizable athletic program or an A-list of alumni with bags of cash to give to their alma mater.
The newest state university, Florida Gulf Coast University, opened its doors to students in August 1997. To date, the school only has approximately 7,000 students and does not have as many undergraduate majors as USF, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Because of its youth and lack of funding, FGCU doesn’t offer majors such as international studies, sociology or even physics.
It is true that Florida’s schools are overcrowded. USF students who have taken classes at the University Mall movie theater can attest to this. According to state enrollment projections reported by the St. Petersburg Times, USF will be the college in need of the most space. According to the article by 2011 teachers and students will have less than 40 percent of the space that they need.
Instead of building a new university, the Board of Governors should concentrate on improving the colleges already in existence. The money that would be spent on building or fostering a new college could go to the construction of buildings and the accreditation of more majors. Florida needs to invest in the schools that already have years under their belt. The answer to the problems Rosenberg and the BOG are concerned about isn’t more schools, it’s better schools.