Task force tackles college class space and scholarships


Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 11:00 p.m.
Adding a needs-based component to the state's Bright Futures scholarship program and maximizing class space in colleges and universities were among recommendations an education task force made Wednesday.
The state's higher education enrollment trails the nation, said a report by the Florida Education Task Force, which was created to move the state's work force toward a high-tech economy and address capacity problems. A final report will go to the Florida Legislature in February. The preliminary report coincided with Gov. Jeb Bush's recommendation a week ago that the state spend $52.4 million to approve minority access, including new scholarships for students who would be the first in their families to attend college.
Creating more space in community colleges and state universities is critical if Florida hopes to meet increasing demands for skilled labor, said Philip Handy, chairman of the state Board of Education.
"We're trying to make sure that if the average student wants to go to higher education that there will be a place for them," Handy said. "The more students we get to go on to higher education, the better off society is, not to mentioned the better off they are."
The task force proposed detailed plans to capitalize on existing education facilities, including expanding programs to offer bachelor's degrees at community colleges, broadening distance learning programs and adopting a statewide education technology plan.
The report highlighted an imbalance between the projected needs of Florida's future economy and an educated work force to meet those needs, the report said. Ignoring the growing achievement gap could spell disaster for Florida's brisk economy, said Manny Fernandez, a task force member representing the University of Florida.

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