Florida’s dire financial situation is already taking a massive toll on the State University System (SUS). While many member institutions have already taken drastic steps to scale back their respective budgets, misspending on new programs may do the most damage to the SUS system.

An article in Monday’s St. Petersburg Times chronicles a disturbing scenario in which upstart medical programs at the University of Central Florida and Florida International University are receiving funds from the state that are disproportionate to those being received by schools with medical programs already in place.

It was reported that the University of Florida, the gem of Florida’s SUS, is in danger of losing accreditation because of overcrowding and a lack of necessary resources. USF’s College of Medicine is in a similar situation, having an established program that is not receiving funding equal to the upstarts.

The argument against developing the medical programs at UCF and FIU is not grounded in a belief that one school is more deserving of a particular program than another, it is based on the illogical nature of the funding they are receiving. Creating new programs that are only hours away from similar ones provided by other state institutions only creates a homogenous university system.

The strength of having a university system is the diversity provided by its member institutions. The City University of New York serves as a perfect example, because it uses 23 different universities to provide access to a well-rounded education. Each four-year university in the CUNY system provides a solid core of bachelor’s degrees, but different schools focus on different subjects. Those who seek to focus on business will attend one school that specializes in the subject, while those who plan to become nurses will apply elsewhere. The funding and tuition are the same, but the universities’ differences allow the best use of faculty and resources.

Members of the programs at UF and USF are not arguing that the younger programs should not be funded by the state, but that the already-established programs should receive an equivalent amount.

“We’re not asking them to take away money from other medical schools, we’re asking them to grow the pie and give us our fair share,” Dr. Bruce Kone, Dean of the UF medical school said to the Times.

The programs at UCF and FIU should not be abandoned, but they should be re-evaluated and possibly delayed until the state finds a way to resolve SUS’ financial problems.

If the state is unable – or unwilling – to fund each school’s medical program equally, it should be demanded that SUS reconsider the necessity of the new programs.