Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Florida is looking to get more out of its education dollar and state lawmakers have come up with a plan to reduce education funding while ensuring their universities graduate more students in the so-called “strategic areas” – these include fields such as science, engineering, medicine and information technology. Governor Scott’s plan calls for an undergraduate student to pay less for a degree in any one of these fields with state financing plugging any tuition gaps. The plan also calls for freezing tuition rates in these areas for three years and for colleges to reduce the cost of other degrees by $3,000 to $10,000.
First off, if I were the governor’s advisor, I’d tell him that politically this is a terrible idea because people who pursue degrees in the “strategic areas” believe in things like facts, climate change, separation of church and state, etc. By pursuing this policy, its like Governor Scott is just setting the Republican Party up to lose future elections. However, since I do not advise the governor, I think there is some merit to his proposal. The fact is that funds are tight and every government program needs to be carefully evaluated in an impartial manner. Florida has cut education spending – 26 percent between 2006 and 2011 according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers – and increased tuition rates – 71 percent over four years. However money remains tight and the $10,000 challenge is another way to make higher education institutions leaner.
On the other hand, there is a market demand for certain fields and, while history, philosophy, and theater et al are valuable, the governor is correct in stating that funds should go towards those areas that give the state a bigger bang for its buck. So, I applaud Governor Scott for thinking out of the box and coming with up with new ideas. The only problem with his proposal is that it’s not expansive enough and if it is to be effective then its scope needs to be expanded.
Students pursuing degrees in the “strategic areas” don’t do it on a whim. They do it because of personal interest and a strong background in mathematics and science, and that only happens at the pre-university level. Therefore, if Governor Scott is serious about this plan then he needs to implement a similar plan at the high school level especially since his state already struggles with low high-school graduation rates. The governor is making the classic mistake of implementing an operational solution to a strategic problem and unless he expands the scope of his proposals, the practical result of his proposed solution will be one of failure and waste.