Washington, DC—A new report on higher education released by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and The James Madison Institute (JMI) finds Florida has boldly addressed issues of cost-effectiveness and has set a high standard for transparency and accountability, but difficult decisions must be made in order for the Sunshine State to weather storms ahead.
Florida Rising: An Assessment of Public Universities in the Sunshine State is the 11th in a series of state report cards from ACTA. It examines issues of cost, speech codes, administrative vs. academic spending, core curriculum, and graduation rates at Florida’s 11 public universities. The report examines Florida’s performance against national averages and provides Florida’s public university governing boards with recommendations to improve the outcomes of each public institution for the benefit of students and taxpayers.
“Florida higher education is a model for the nation in keeping tuition affordable and focusing attention on improving graduation rates,” said Anne D. Neal, ACTA president. “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.”
ACTA’s recommendations include:
1. Assess student learning and reward institutions for performance – The BOG can use performance based funding to encourage full use of assessments and to reward institutions that meet appropriate benchmarks for student learning gains.
2. Require coursework in the history and institutions of America among general education requirements to ensure graduates are ready for engaged, effective citizenship.
3. Build upon the excellent clarity and effective presentation of the Accountability Report by adding key metrics including grade distribution, classroom and laboratory utilization, and average number of classes taught per term by tenured and tenured-track faculty.
4. Implement requirements for intermediate foreign language proficiency and for basic economics, both of which are necessities in a dynamic marketplace and increasingly global community.
5. Eliminate speech codes that violate Constitutionally-protected free expression to enhance and protect intellectual diversity and academic freedom on all System campuses.
“JMI’s goal in helping with this report is to bring to light the necessity for reflective assessment of all facets of the public university system in order to measure effectiveness and achieve best ‘bang-for-buck,’” said Dr. Robert McClure, III, JMI president and CEO. “ACTA’s thoughtful recommendations add value to the debates about how Florida can truly rise to the top in higher education.”
“The Florida Board of Governors is pleased to welcome ACTA to present their recommendations to attendees of our June 2013 meeting,” said Chancellor Frank Brogan of the State University System of Florida. “We are consistently striving to improve our state’s university system, and reports like ACTA’s provide an important perspective in comparison with other nationwide benchmarks.”
The story of Florida’s public universities has particular importance for higher education in other states, the report says. If they continue to be successful, Florida’s proactive initiatives to maximize both access and academic quality will represent a key example for other states to follow and a new standard for cost-effectiveness in higher education.
“Like many institutions of higher education, the System’s primary challenges include limiting unnecessary growth, maximizing use of existing resources, and learning how best to leverage emerging opportunities such as distance education,” said Dr. Michael Poliakoff, ACTA vice president of policy. “Floridians have a lot to be proud of when it comes to their universities, and their governing boards have made a number of wise decisions in recent years. By addressing critical issues now, 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.”
For more information on ACTA and JMI, visit www.goacta.org and www.jamesmadison.org respectively.