A battle over money and a new university dominated higher education debate this legislative session, but in the background, with little fuss, lawmakers approved another bill that could fundamentally change how every state university operates.
The bill identifies more than two dozen measurements, such as graduation rates and research success, and sets the stage for using this new yardstick to dole out state money to universities in the future.
The bill also requires the state to prepare an "economic security report" showing the earning power of each degree and certificate awarded by a Florida university or college.
State university officials like it.
University system Chancellor Frank Brogan wrote a letter to the House sponsor, Bill Proctor, thanking him for his "unwavering and informed" support of the state universities. Proctor is a Republican from St. Augustine and chancellor of Flagler State College.
With this bill and other measures, Brogan wrote, Florida can "lift our public institutions into a national top-tier and pre-eminent status."
His words are a contrast to the dour mood this session as lawmakers cut state university funding for the sixth year straight.
Proctor, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he hopes the new data-driven approach will help universities see where they need to focus their attention. He also sought to strengthen the hand of the state Board of Governors to improve university performance statewide.
In research on the bill, Proctor said, his committee found "great variance" in the quality of the 11 state universities, stretching from Miami to Pensacola and each with its own board of trustees, budget and goals.