If Florida's 12 public universities were students, they might be considered underachievers. Only one, the University of Florida, cracks the nation's top 50.
Yet high-quality higher education in Florida is essential to turn out the talent that will attract investment, create high-wage jobs, and build a better economy and future for the Sunshine State. And state leaders, who have neglected this imperative for years, finally seem ready to give it the attention it needs.
Here are some of the issues lawmakers must confront in their upcoming session if they're serious about improving the quality of the state's universities — colleges, too — while keeping costs for students under control:
State funding: Lawmakers have slashed annual funding for universities by hundreds of millions of dollars since 2008. The universities have made up the difference by raising their tuitions up to 15 percent a year.