Line in the sand

Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 12:12 a.m.

Mark Rosenberg is wrapping up his stint as chancellor of the State University System. By way of parting advice, he is counseling the Board of Governors not to lift the system's cap on freshman enrollment.

That cap, Rosenberg told the board recently, is "a line in the sand for quality."

The board is under pressure to lift the cap of 38,500 new freshmen annually. Board members are hearing from angry parents who can't get their kids into a state university.

That's a problem. Ideally, all Floridians should have easy access to a quality higher education.

But over the years, Florida's politicians have chosen dirt cheap access over quality. Rosenberg points out that Florida's per-student spending is $4,500 less, adjusted for inflation, than it was nearly 20 years ago.

The result is larger and larger classes classes with more than 100 students have increased by 92 percent in a decade and the highest student-faculty ratio in America.

That's not a prescription for a quality higher education. It's a prescription for a cheap diploma.

Without adequate funding, it would be irresponsible for the Board of Governors, or for university boards of trustees, to open the floodgates for still more students.

The University of Florida isn't planning to lift its cap, even at the risk of being branded "elitist."

"We can't just open the floodgates to the university at a time of declining funding," Provost Joe Glover told The Sun.

Parents angry about not being able to get their children into state universities need to redirect their complaints to the responsible parties; their elected representatives in the Florida Legislature.

It's lawmakers who continue to reduce per student funding while keeping tuition artificially low.

Having drawn the line in the sand, the Board of Governors should stand resolute.

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