A Lovely Parting Gift

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Big $$ Gifts of Sweet Victory

August 2, 2012

Gift of sweet success – the benefit and influence of a key legislator.  An insider’s view published by FloridaVoices.com.

By:  Paula Dockery

During the last legislative session, one legislator used his position as appropriations chair to push through a bill creating the state’s 12th university while cutting $300 million from the existing 11. Not one of the legislative leaders reined in his costly pet project. Some claimed the state needed more STEM degrees — short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — as though UF’s College of Engineering is somehow a front for the liberal arts.

Despite editorials in opposition from all the state’s major newspapers, as well as the well-reasoned advice from the Council of 100, Gov. Rick Scott, once hesitant on the issue, signed the bill into law, declaring: “At a time when the number of graduates of Florida’s universities in the STEM fields is not projected to meet workforce needs, the establishment of Florida Polytechnic University will help us move the needle in the right direction. Failing to meet this challenge will be costly to our state for decades.”

The governor’s statement went unchallenged. Even those opposed to creating a 12th university in a shaky economy tend to agree that STEM degrees are needed. But are they? What does the data indicate?

According to Florida’s Board of Governors, our 11 universities offer degrees in 16 STEM disciplines, with differences among them. These degrees are rigorous for students and expensive for the universities, especially with other universities recruiting professors with the offer of higher salaries.

According to the governor’s Department of Economic Opportunity, STEM-related jobs account for about 10 percent of Florida’s job market, a number that closely mirrors the nation’s. And over the next seven years, the DEO projects that STEM-related jobs in Florida will grow at a faster rate — 2.16 percent versus 1.56 percent for non-STEM jobs.

Read complete article: http://www.floridavoices.com/columns/paula-dockery/lovely-parting-gift

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