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Scott Wants Universities to Outline How Students will Help Florida Economy

October 22, 2011 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott wants the presidents and trustees of Floridas 11 public universities to outline what the schools are doing to ensure graduates meet the need of employers.

And the education leaders have until Nov. 15 to reply.

Ava Parker, chairwoman of the Board of Governors, wrote Scott that the board would coordinate a response.

Scott intends to use the answers for his higher education plan that he has already said he wants focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM core desired for a high-tech future.

I want Floridians to have the opportunity to obtain the best education for which Florida taxpayers are willing to pay, Scott wrote in an Oct. 13 letter. I want Floridians to have resources available to seek employment. As we all know, the biggest challenge facing Floridians is finding a job.

The letters were sent as Scott has suggested the elimination of university tenure for professors, publicly criticized an overemphasis on liberal arts -- highlighted by his rhetorical question about the need for more anthropology majors -- and posted the salaries of all state university employees on the Internet.

His questions seek: what the universities have done in the last three years to ensure graduates are meeting the needs of employers; information stating whether graduates are able to find jobs in Florida; whether there are ways to measure student success after graduation; goals for the highest-paid employees for the past three years; and how schools measure program costs and revenue.

On Wednesday, State University System of Florida Chancellor Frank Brogan is scheduled to give an address on how Florida has been evolving to meet the needs of a New Florida economy during the Career Technical Education Foundations Florida STEM Summit in Tampa.

Scotts effort to revamp education on a tight budget has the backing of many Republican legislators and one of the states most powerful business organizations, the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, chamber leaders included the need to emphasise STEM programs as part of their own agenda for the 2012 legislative session.

Right now there are 34,000 open jobs that require STEM degrees, said Chamber President Mark Wilson. We need more degrees for STEM and we need to do it at the early ages, not just the degree level.

The country of India today graduates more English-speaking engineers in one year than the United States graduates college students. Florida should lead the way forward.

Scott, using Agency for Workforce Innovation numbers, has estimated that Florida will need at least 120,000 workers in the science and math fields through 2018.

This figure does not account for the additional need that would be generated by new companies moving into the state or emerging industries, Scotts agenda states. Further, Enterprise Florida estimates that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing job fields will require a STEM education.

Scott has estimated that less than 20 percent of the state university systems graduates will earn degrees in fields that fall under STEM classification.

Our universities can drive graduates toward high employment and high-earning careers by increasing focus on graduating students in STEM fields. In order to achieve these goals, it is critical that Florida establish a goal for STEM graduates over the next five and 10 years. High expectations coupled with increased accountability will ensure that our universities are a driving force for economic growth.

The K-12 system must also meet STEM demands in both the K-12 setting as well as in its workforce education programs. Our students must meet high academic standards with strong preparation in science and math in order to be prepared to compete with an increasingly competitive global work force.

According to the chambers agenda, there will be a 20 percent increase in science- and math-related jobs by 2018 and there are approximately 33,600 open science and math positions in Florida.

Fridays unemployment numbers indicate that a college education plays a role in a person finding a job in Florida.

Its a very significant difference, said Rebecca Rust, Agency for Workforce Innovation's chief economist.

In August, among those working and seeking work, those with less than a high school education have a 14 percent unemployment rate. The percentage drops to 9.7 among high school graduates.

Among those holding college degrees, only 4.2 percent had filed unemployment claims last month.

Rust noted that even just taking a few college courses can help job seekers as the percentage of people who had taken some college-level courses looking for work was 8.4.

The state numbers don't provide a breakdown on unemployment by college major.

Gov. Scotts questions to the university presidents and trustees:

A. What studies has your university done in the last three years to ensure your graduates are meeting the needs of employers?

B. Do you have measurable goals to meet employers current needs? If so, please provide them. How often are these goals updated?

C. Do you have measurable goals for each graduate in the areas of writing proficiency and critical thinking? If so, please send them to me with the goals and include the results for the last five to 10 years.

D. Does your university offer or require a class that focuses on the development of writing proficiency and critical thinking skills? If so, please send me the data on the success of students who enrolled in that course.

E. Are professors required to integrate writing proficiency and critical thinking into all courses? If so, what oversight is provided to ensure that these skills are being taught? How are these skills integrated into course assessments?

F. Do you have measurable goals for student success after graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

G. Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

H. Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates with specific degrees such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nursing, etc? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

I. What are the core subjects every undergraduate must complete prior to graduation?

J. Please send me a job description, total wages, number of courses instructed, and measurable goals for the 50 highest-paid employees for each of the last three years.

K. Do you measure the readiness of new students to succeed at your university? If so, do you measure on a per-income-high-school basis? If so, please send me the measurement and the results for the last five to 10 years.

L. What is your process in determining which programs to terminate and which programs to initiate? In the last 10 years, what programs were terminated and what programs began?

M. What programs do you have to educate students regarding job opportunities? What are your measurable goals for each program? Do you use information similar to the data available from the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) to prepare students prior to admission and prior to selection of major? Please provide me the results for the last five to 10 years.

N. How do you measure the universitys cost and revenue per program? If you do, please send me reports for the last five to 10 years. Additionally, please send me your individual measurable goals and tracking of your success during your term as university president.

O. Please send me your universitys overall measurable goals and tracking from the last five to 10 years.

P. Do you perform 360-degree reviews with your board of trustees? If so, please provide me with these reviews from the last five to 10 years.

Q. Please provide me with any additional information you think may be helpful, including your thought process to make sure we are headed in the right direction.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.

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