EDITORIAL: Legislators must focus on quality over quantity

The University of Miami may be the next school required to make a sacrifice for the upstart medical program at Florida International University.

State Representative David Rivera proposed that UM surrender $3.5 million in general revenue from its medical school to help FIU’s program get off the ground in the midst of statewide budget cuts. According to the St. Petersburg Times, this proposal was made because FIU’s administrators believe they may not be able to begin classes due to the budget shortfall.

The Times also reported that the motion passed a House council Thursday.

It is a victory for FIU, but a loss for UM and the State University System (SUS) that is suffering at the hands of shortsighted politicians.

Earlier this year, the Times reported on the decrease in funding for the medical programs at USF and the University of Florida. The state had been allocating more money for the programs at FIU and the University of Central Florida. UF believes its shortfalls may prevent accreditation because of overcrowding and a lack of resources.

The Times also reported that Florida State University’s medical program, just seven years old, has cost more than it is worth. The program has been slow in becoming established and receives roughly four times more state funding per student than UF. USF and UF recoup this funding discrepancy through tuition.

What will the state do if the programs at UCF and FIU become financial drains? What happens when the SUS is inundated with medical programs, all struggling for funding and accreditation, instead of focusing on those already in place and attempting to bring them to national prominence?

The only way to guarantee that the SUS does not throw money away, particularly given dire financial circumstances, would be to allocate those funds to programs that are already established. There is no overhead and no additional fees – just funds going toward improving what is already in place.

This also serves as an example of why the Board of Governors is a necessary aspect of Florida’s higher education. Politicians will ultimately need to barter and divvy up funds for projects at universities, and they may ensure that those schools serving their voting demographic receive funding over other, more qualified institutions.

Thankfully, there appear to be some members of Florida’s legislative body who can think rationally about the dangers of removing funds from established programs.

“We’re talking about taking money from one of the best medical schools in the country, with one of the best residency programs, and we’re taking money set aside for 500 attending residents who serve the indigent,” Democrat Jack Seiler told the Times.

It’s unfortunate, however, that reasoning such as this is coming from the minority.