Education has never been one of Florida’s strong suits, but there still might be some hope yet.
Before releasing his budget proposal this week, Gov. Rick Scott revealed education’s role in his budget, potentially raising education spending to a record high of $18.84 billion according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times.
In his suggested budget for higher education, about $3.6 billion was allocated for the State University System, $40 million of which would be set aside for performance-based incentives. This is a drastic change from his first year in office, where instead of a suggested increase, Scott recommended $3.3 billion in cuts.
Now that Scott seems to be valuing education more than in recent years, and the State University System seems to be successful in a new performance-based model, Florida’s education system may have an optimistic future. However, this optimism needs to be taken with a grain of salt until universities figure out how to benefit without cutting from core values.
Last year, state universities competed for $20 million in performance-based funding from the Board of Governors (BOG). For this coming year, the BOG approved an even larger plan for universities to boost competition by increasing the performance-based pot to $50 million, determined by a set of 10 metrics.
If this performance-based trend could provide incentive for USF to get its six-year graduation rate to 63 percent, the highest it has been in 15 years, then surely the new trend has some worth.
The hope, however, is that universities do not sacrifice academics in the process by concentrating strictly on metrics.
The quality and diversity of academics, such as prospering liberal arts programs and elective courses, should be the focus when building a better system instead of just developing an efficient STEM degree assembly line while still profiting to cover shortfalls.
At the end of the day, it can be argued that STEM degrees get the high-paying jobs and the years it takes to receive a degree is a meter of success. However, the time it takes to explore careers through various programs, even the liberal arts courses, is worth the extended graduation timeline and what really makes college worth the debt accrued.
Scott’s verbal commitment is hopefully one that will take a step back toward re-committing the state’s ideological support of education and one that will allow universities to focus on doing what they do best – teach, not count beans.