By The Associated Press, Herald-Tribune
/ Monday, June 25, 2012
By BILL KACZOR
TALLAHASSEE — The head of Florida State University told Gov. Rick Scott’s higher education reform panel Monday that budget cuts are making his faculty a “farm team” for out-of-state schools.
Florida State President Eric Barron advocated letting his university and the University of Florida, the state’s top two research schools, raise tuition beyond the current legal limit to overcome the budget cuts. But Scott had already vetoed such an idea two months ago.
Barron said shrinking state support, including a $300 million cut for the State University System in the budget year beginning Sunday, has meant that Florida State cannot prevent its best faculty members from leaving for higher paying jobs. He added that will make it more difficult to attract top students as well as research dollars from corporations and the federal government, key factors in promoting job creation and the state’s economic development.
Of 58 arts and sciences faculty members who received outside offers, Florida State was able to retain only eight, Barron said. He said they received offers that averaged $20,000, or 24 percent, more than what they were making at Florida State.
Barron said he can match competing schools in starting pay but not for higher ranking professors.
“They’re letting us become the farm team for other states,” Barron told the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. “Another university looks and says, ‘Wow, they’ve got an excellent faculty member, but they don’t give raises there; I can pluck them off for even cheaper than what I pay an associate professor.”‘ The Legislature passed a bill that would have let Florida State and Florida boost tuition beyond the 15 percent annual maximum allowed by law.
In vetoing the measure, Scott said the universities needed to provide him with more details on what students and taxpayers would get in return for the higher tuition.
Asked about Barron’s comments to the task force, Scott acknowledged that students and their parents, as consumers, would be willing to pay more for a better education.
“We’ve started the process of having that conversation, and I think we’re going to have a lot of it over the next 12 months,” Scott said.
Florida’s “brain drain” will continue due to reductions in benefits, including a new law requiring public employees to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the Florida Retirement System, as well as noncompetitive salaries, said Jennifer Proffitt, an associate professor of communications and information at Florida State.
“Loyalty to the university is not rewarded,” Proffitt told the panel. “Those rewards, of course, include salaries.”
Barron also argued that students who attend the top-rated research universities are paying relatively little for that advantage because the difference in tuition among the state’s 11 active universities is under $30 per month.
Florida’s public universities rank 45th in tuition and fees among the 50 states and District of Columbia.
The Board of Governors last week approved tuition increases ranging from 9 percent to 15 percent for the various schools, but they are still expected to rank among the lowest in the nation. The board approved 13 percent for Florida State although the school had sought 15 percent. Scott had opposed the increases.