Commitment, Not Cash

From Florida comes news that business leaders in the state are telling the state’s public colleges to “Stop Asking for Money!” Because it’s a recession and, you know, they don’t have any.

Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said that business leaders in his state (like many of their counterparts elsewhere) have become big supporters of higher education because they recognize that colleges and universities represent the state’s best path to a viable economic future.

What the state needs in order to compete, Wilson said, is an education system that serves as a “talent supply chain” to produce enough educated and skilled workers to provide the workers needed by companies in Florida’s emerging industries — life sciences, clean energy, and information technology, to name several of the “clusters” on which state leaders are focusing.

If Florida businesses refuse to provide colleges with money, they are all too willing to provide state schools with their “commitment.” Last year Florida business leaders helped the universities to achieve the power to set their own tuition. Now business leaders are working on “better aligning state K-12 standards and college entrance requirements.”

Business leaders are seemingly really well aware of the relationship between education and future workers. It is sort of unclear, however, where the state is going to get those “workers needed by companies in Florida’s emerging industries” if schools (or at least families and students paying for those schools) do not get at least some money. The notion of public colleges serving as incubators for future workers is pretty well established. The advisory role of businesses in local universities is something universities generally merely tolerate, usually in exchange for something.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer