July 25, 2014

Higher Education in Florida

Chancellor Frank Brogan is in the Hot Seat

Chancellor Frank Brogan is trying to emphasize ‘system’ to a group of universities that have grown accustomed to functioning as independent actors.

Mike Vogel | 6/29/2011
Rollins College
"I really think now is exactly the time for a new model." — Chancellor Frank Brogan [Photo: Ray Stanyard]

This year, the top academic officers from the state's 11 public universities have been working on a study of the system's programs — what's duplicated, what's missing, what's under-enrolled, what's in demand. On its face, it's about efficiency and planning.

The provosts' effort also is about nudging the needle toward centralized coordination after a decade of what Chancellor Frank Brogan calls "devolutionary authority" in the State University System. "While I and many are in favor of local control, we also know the institutions are part of a system," Brogan says. "We've put local control completely over that of systemic need. We do need to see the pendulum swing back somewhat to a general system approach."

Where we Stand
> The State University System of Florida ranks 10th nationally for graduation rates of full-time, first-time-in-college (FTIC) students compared to the average rates for four-year public institutions in other states.
> Graduation rates for non-Hispanic black students put Florida fifth nationally; among Hispanic students, Florida ranks sixth.
> The state's university system ranked fourth in the nation in first-to-second-year student retention rate.

Also toward that end, the Legislature last year created a Higher Education Coordinating Council, made up of the CEOs from each of the state's five education silos — public universities, state colleges, private colleges, for-profits and the pre-K-12 system — to get clearer direction on any needed reforms.
The Legislature hasn't funded enrollment growth at the universities for five years. And to Brogan, declining state funding for higher education makes the time ripe for abandoning a spending model based on numbers of students and adopting one based on programs, in which missions, research, graduate and undergraduate programs are all aligned for maximum return on investment. "The old system was a bounty system — 'the more students you have, the more money you receive.' At some point," says Brogan, that approach "becomes counterproductive."

Brogan favors "differentiated missions" for the universities, an echo of the 2007 report from the Pappas consulting firm that recommended that some universities within the system focus solely on bachelor's degrees rather than on research and graduate schools. Brogan wants the system's needs to hold more sway over individual university decisions on how big to get and what research fields to invest in. Ohio is a state he points to as worthy of emulation.

As an example, he says, Florida's 11 public universities have nine engineering schools, an unusually high number. Now that it has so many, the sensible approach, he argues, is for each to have niches at which they excel and avoid duplication. State funding cuts have brought efficiency. From 2007 to 2010, the universities shuttered or suspended more than 100 degree programs, tracks, institutes and centers and merged departments and colleges. UCF, for example, saved $4.6 million by terminating four programs. Florida International University closed some engineering programs in recent years to absorb state budget cuts.
Remaining to be seen is how much buy-in Brogan gets from the universities on his dream of a new model. "It's not about asking for more money," he says. "At the end of the day it's more money to put into a different system."


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