Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

FAU HOSTS BOARD OF GOVERNORS

The Board of Governors, a panel of top leaders who oversee Florida’s universities, met on FAU’s Boca campus Wednesday to discuss the fate of the state’s university system.

The group, joined by more than 100 onlookers, reviewed a $200,000 private report that called for major changes to Florida’s universities, including the creation of a new three-tired system that focuses on undergraduate education. Board member John Dashburg, who raised the funds for the report, said that it was intended to “provoke” the Board and stir discussion. “First we need to narrow down the issues and seek consensus,” Dasburg said.However, after more than three hours, there didn’t appear to be much consensus. Several of the Board members questioned Stephen Portch, vice president of the consulting company that put together the document, as he outlined the proposed reforms to Florida’s state university system.The most prominent point of the proposal suggests creating a new three-tiered class of universities, which would focus on undergraduate studies and offer bachelor’s degrees. Many of the Board members seemed skeptical about the proposed changes, particularly about how “labeling” colleges and not offering graduate programs at a university might affect recruitment of top-tier faculty.

Under the proposal’s suggested changes, community colleges, private schools and branches of existing universities would qualify as state colleges. Their focus would be undergraduate education. The only requirement is that they have enrollment of 7,500 students in 10 years. FAU’s Davie campus could fall into this category. Deborah Floyd, Professor of higher education at FAU, says the report will definitely “kick-start conversation” among the Board of Governors, although it presents some extreme reforms.

“They (the Board) are asking good questions and expect good answers,” Floyd said. “If it was a milquetoast report, we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I think that as long as the focus stays on students and not power it could be a healthy change.”

For a large state, Florida has only 11 state colleges and 28 community colleges. In 2006, the total number of enrolled undergraduates was 292,403 and 51,825 graduate students. Of those 57 percent were female, 58 percent were white and 13 percent were black.

“Florida cannot thrive economically or educationally if it doesn’t close the participation and achievement gap,” Portch says. “We need to raise the number of minority high school graduates and completion of bachelor degrees.”

As for the direct effect of the proposed changes on FAU, funding could be diverted from research and graduate programs to expand undergraduate studies. Also, FAU’s Davie campus – which has about 3,000 students now – could eventually be a candidate for transition to a state college, separate from FAU.

“In the near future the proposed changes will affect FAU very little,” Floyd says. “It’s ambitious to put the emphasis on undergraduate education, but not at the expense of research and graduate education.”

The Board will meet again all day today for more discussion of the report.

»Click here to read the actual report

BIG CHANGES

Here are the six main points laid out in the report:

1. Focus on undergraduate education.

2. Expand online education using existing higher education resources.

3. Have private universities provide more access.

4. Create a new three-tiered system for state colleges.

5. Link state funding to universities to high school graduation rates.

6. Target funding for research and economic development.

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