Florida’s 28 colleges, pushed by state lawmakers to offer four-year degrees, may have grown to where they are now an obstacle to state efforts to have a top-ranked university system, Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron said Wednesday.
Negron, backed by other top senators, said lawmakers this spring will attempt to reverse a decade-long drive to expand the reach of the college system. He said there is only so much state money to go around, and state leaders are already committed to having Florida’s 12 public universities compete for prestige with the likes of North Carolina, California and other acclaimed systems.
“There needs to be…lines of demarcation,” Negron said of the relationship between colleges and universities. “So we’re not trying to do the same thing in two different settings. They both have important roles to play.”
Negron said colleges provide a key role in Florida. For many students, they are a lower-cost alternative to universities for those seeking new job skills or academic credentials.
But with bachelor’s degrees now offered in 500 programs at Florida colleges, higher education dollars have become fragmented with universities struggling to maintain curriculum and keep and attract professors.
“As you travel around the state, you’re seeing too many state colleges that instead of the four-year degrees being part of what they do, that’s now become the focus,” Negron said. “That’s the advertising. That’s what they’re trying to create as their brand.”