Gov. Rick Scott has only eight days to decide whether to sign a bill that would split off USF Polytechnic into the state’s 12th university.
On Thursday, state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, lobbied Scott to sign the bill.
Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, led a seven-member delegation urging Scott to sign a bill to convert the USF Polytechnic campus in Lakeland into Florida Polytechnic, the state’s 12th university.
After the hourlong meeting, Alexander said he tried to make the case that a school focused on science, technology, engineering and math degrees would help Florida’s economy.
“I believe we made good arguments about the ability of this institution to focus in a way that can be successful for us, as an economy and as a state,” Alexander said.
The Republican senator, a University of Florida graduate, began his own collegiate career at Georgia Tech. He said too many students are getting degrees from state schools that don’t help them obtain good jobs.
“There’s lots of those programs that are not producing jobs for students,” he said. “They go out, they can’t get jobs, they’ve finished getting their degree and they’ve got a ton of debt.”
Scott has expressed concerns similar to those of Alexander. Last year, he came under fire for suggesting that the state needs more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates rather than students focused on the liberal arts. During an October 2011 luncheon, Scott offered up some ideas on how to change the state’s college system, namely, by cutting funding for liberal arts education and degrees that, according to him, don’t offer a good return on investment.
“Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology?” he asked a crowd. “I don’t. I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out.”
Under the plan to turn USF Poly into Florida Polytechnic, the new school’s curriculum would be grounded in STEM skills.
Though Alexander is leading the charge in support of the bill, several current and former lawmakers have criticized the move. Former Florida Gov. Bob Graham and state Sens. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, have all expressed opposition to the bill.