FL Gov. Considers Higher Education Incentives, Costs

Published January 5, 2012

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has publicly released the salaries of all state employees, including state university professors, and requested detailed financial and enrollment information from all 11 state universities in preparation for higher education policy changes.

“I’d like to understand why our universities cost what they cost,” Scott said.

Of 16,000 state university professors, 336 make more than $250,000 a year, while the median professor salary is approximately $65,000. The median salary for all 52,000 state university employees is approximately $40,000. These numbers do not include benefits.

College tuition has nearly quadrupled in the past 25 years, outpacing inflation, growth in median family income, and prices for new cars, homes, and prescription drugs.

Graduates ‘Not Equipped’
Despite these spending increases, “Many university graduates are unable to find jobs in their field of study and many employers are concerned that university graduates are not equipped with the appropriate writing skills, critical thinking skills, and technical expertise needed to succeed,” Scott wrote in a letter to Florida’s state universities.

Scott requested data on how many students and classes top-earning professors teach, graduates’ employment rates, which programs had begun and been closed in the past ten years, the university’s cost and revenue per program, and whether the universities know how many graduates remain in Florida ten years after commencement.

“The only way to ensure increasing levels of performance is by measuring outcomes using objective, data driven criteria in a fully transparent environment,” Scott wrote.

Linking Funds to Performance
Scott has shown interest in linking state university funding to performance. Earlier this year he noted comparisons in Texas between professor pay and students taught that caused a near-revolt among professors earning high salaries for light teaching and research loads.

“The governor feels like there needs to be transparency, and this is one way he’s made getting access to these public records easy for everybody,” said Lane Wright, Scott’s spokesman.

A panel of business and higher education leaders recommended performance-based higher education to Scott and the state legislature, which is expected to consider the recommendations in its 2012 session. The Higher Education Coordinating Council also recommended incentives for students to study science, technology, engineering, and math; cost and employment-demand studies on new course offerings; and letting colleges and universities operate charter schools.

Bureaucracy, Debt Growth
Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators at the nation’s leading universities grew twice as fast as the number engaged in teaching, research, or service, notes a 2010 study from the Goldwater Institute.

Public colleges and universities have received an expected $6.2 billion in budget cuts by legislators in 2010 and 2011 as heavily indebted states attempt to reverse course.

Internet Info:
Florida State Employee Salaries: http://www.floridahasarighttoknow.com/search_state_payroll_info.html.

Gov. Scott’s letter to Florida’s state university presidents and boards of trustees: http://news.heartland.org/policy-documents/gov-scotts-letter-florida-state-universities

Image by Kolin Toney.