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Florida Universities Must Consider Single Branding of Online Programs

January 29, 2013 - 6:00pm

Rather than create a new university that exists in cyberspace, Florida lawmakers may instead seek to build upon what all the states universities already offer, possibly under the direction of the University of Florida or Florida State University.

State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said the Florida schools should consider reviewing the more than 30,000 online programs already offered by the states universities and potentially moving them under the brand of one or a couple of the top-level schools.

Brogan, who has requested a $400 million boost in funding from legislators for the university system that grew by one last year, said Wednesday during the Associated Presss annual pre-legislative session review that lawmakers must determine if the current online programs are being properly offered.

And it may come down to one university, or a group of universities taking the lead on organizing undergraduate and graduate degrees, and putting their brand on the programs, he said.

I think this will take longer, it will take a reorganization of all that we do, Brogan said.

With the ability to navigate a high-quality, name-brand, online educational program is affordability. As we develop this were going to have to do it with cost in mind.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has been a proponent of creating an online only university, also Wednesday downplayed his 13th university proposal that is being reviewed by legislators.

But that doesnt mean hes given up on the idea of expanding the online offerings from Florida.

Right now, we fund our universities based upon one thing: how many people show up. That is a flawed model, Weatherford said on Wednesday.

A study by the Boston-based Parthenon Group under review by the House Education Committee has estimated the cost of building a world class campus that exists strictly in the paperless global universe of the Internet for 30,000 to 50,000 students could run from $30 million to $70 million to set up.

Once in place, however, the recurring annual costs are expected to be more manageable.

Such a proposal comes as the states universities already offer online programs that will be taken by about 40 percent of the current student body, above the approximately 33 percent average for students nationwide.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, also supported reorganization of the current online programs.

Not every course probably lends itself to online education, and not every student lends their self to an online education, but this is an opportunity for us to provide far less expensively and in a far more modern fashion, Gaetz said.

At the same time, with Gov. Rick Scott due to release his 2013 agenda on Thursday, Brogan said he has received assurances from the legislative leadership that the $300 million removed from university reserves last year will be restored.

Brogan also expects lawmakers to revisit the pre-eminence education bill that would have allowed universities the power to seek higher tuition increases with the goal of building nationally-touted science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Legislators approved the bill, HB 7129, last year but it was vetoed by Scott over concerns of mounting debt already being incurred by recent graduates.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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