Higher education in Florida earns strong marks

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A report just released by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and the James Madison Institute finds Florida has addressed and set the standard for cost-effectiveness, transparency and accountability. But difficult decisions remain ahead for the state to weather upcoming challenges.

The report, “Florida Rising: An Assessment of Public Universities in the Sunshine State“, examines data related to cost, speech codes, administrative vs. academic spending, curriculum, and higher education graduation rates.

Florida is the 11th state to be assessed by ACTA, and received favorable assessment by the group for keeping tuition affordable and focusing attention on graduation rates.

“However, gaps in their core curriculum, steep athletic spending, and restrictive speech codes show that continuing Florida’s upward course will need strong and active leadership from governing boards,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal.

Compared with other states, the report found Florida to set a high standard for cost-effectiveness in higher education, as well as access and academic quality.

“We are extremely gratified that this report distinguishes our system as a national leader in higher education. Following years of budgetary constraints, our universities have emerged stronger and more focused than ever and are making great strides toward national prominence,” said State University System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “This report validates the Board of Governors’ priorities of improving student success, enhancing online learning, and balancing access, quality and affordability—all of which contribute to my long-stated goal of ensuring Florida has the most accountable university system in America.”

To continue Florida’s record of improvement, ACTA recommends five areas for attention. According to the report, Florida should:  Assess student learning and reward institutions for performance; Require coursework in the history and institutions of America among the general education requirements; Build upon the excellent clarity and effective presentation of the Accountability Report by adding key metrics such as grade distribution, classroom and laboratory utilization, and courses taught per term by faculty; Implement requirements for intermediate foreign language proficiency and for basic economics, which are necessary in a global community; and finally, Eliminate speech codes that violate Constitutionally-protected free expression on all system campuses.

With these in mind, according to ACTA vice president of policy Dr. Michael Poliakoff, “Floridians can ensure that their graduates are as prepared as possible to face life after graduation with as little debt — and as much skill and knowledge– as possible.”

ACTA is a non-profit committed to academic freedom and accountability at America’s colleges; and MI is Florida’s oldest and largest nonpartisan public policy research and education organization, dedicated to advancing economic freedom, limited government, and the rule of law.