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News Service of Florida: Five Questions for Ed Moore

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ed Moore, longtime president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, represents 31 private, not-for-profit institutions. They award about one-quarter of Floridas bachelor degrees and include institutions such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Nova Southeastern University, Stetson University, the University of Miami and Bethune-Cookman University. Their combined budgets total more than $5 billion, and they employ more than 37,000 Floridians. Last year Gov. Rick Scott named Moore to the board of directors of Workforce Florida.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Ed Moore:

Q: Gov. Scott vetoed the tuition hike today for public universities and state colleges. Talk about the pros and cons of that from where you sit.

MOORE: I’m sure from his point of view, what he’s thinking of is tuition being a tax. And a lot of people would argue that it’s a fee for service. I mean, you’re paying for what you’re getting. Florida traditionally has been the lowest or next to lowest in terms of public tuition, and my schools, which are the not-for-profit private (institutions) — we’re not part of that system, so it doesn’t directly affect us, but it does affect the quality, I think — the revenue affects quality — of what’s being able to be offered at the state university system.

So there’s arguments on both sides. He is of a mindset that he wants to hold costs down to the consumer, but someone’s paying for it. Whether the consumer’s going to pay for it directly for that service or it’s going to be in higher state payments to those universities to offer what they need to offer. You dont buy quality on the cheap. So it’s just a question of how you get to a maintenance of quality.

Q: So when the cost gets passed on, who picks it up?

MOORE: I hate to be that trite, but, cost is cost. It costs so much to deliver the higher ed offerings that those costs have to be met somehow. So whether it’s done through direct state subsidy, which in large part — I mean, the state universities lost about $300 million in state cuts just last year that have been restored — to a degree, restored this year. Not fully restored, because there are performance components of that, and other components of that.

And you’ve seen, over the years, with all the cuts that have happened, reduction in the quality of faculty, a lot of faculty leaving the state, a lot of programs being reduced, larger class sizes — there are things that happen when you don’t have the funds to pay for it.

My sector, the ICUF sector, doesn’t have that problem. We have the problem of having to raise almost all of our funds, whether it’s through tuition or private donations or other means. But cost is cost. If you’re going to have a classroom of 18 to 25 students, offering organic chemistry, the costs of offering that organic chemistry class are going to be the same whether it’s on the public side or the private side. It’s just a question of who’s going to pay for it. In our case, it’s higher tuition, and students are paying more for what they’re getting.

Q: Are you feeling the pressure to develop more online capacity?

MOORE: Our schools are more market-driven. And frankly, when the Speaker of the House, Will Weatherford, brought up online about a year-and-a-half ago, and the state started looking at it, we did an assessment of our institutions, and we actually lead the state in online offerings already. We have 31 institutions. Twenty of them offer fully online degree programs. We have 281 fully online degree programs, where a student can just sit at home and get their entire degree online out of the ICUF institutions alone.

So we had a tremendous asset that was available, and when we met with the Speaker on that, when he first started (saying) “We need to create an online university” — and he lit a spark, I think. And he was very receptive to me when I visited him with charts showing him, “Here’s a tremendous asset Florida already hasLet’s figure out how to make this work so the state universities can enhance what they’re offering, but it doesn’t do harm to what’s already out there in the market.”

And I think what the Legislature just did accommodated that. The University of Florida’s going to have a two-part component. They’re the designated institution for the state university system. They’re going to be doing a lot of research. They’ll be bringing us in on that research, stuff we’re already offering. And they will also begin to offer more online degrees. Up to this point, the state universities have been focused on junior-senior level, not all four years.

Q: The $10,000 degree Gov. Scott called for you mentioned not doing things on the cheap, but that’s exactly the charge that’s been leveled at that idea. Are any of your members doing a $10,000 degree?

MOORE: No, not directly, and I guess what it gets down to is how you define a $10,000 degree. Is it the gross cost of what it costs to offer a degree? That’s impossible. You just cannot offer a four-year degree for $10,000. If it’s based on what the student is going to pay, that they’re only going to pay ten grand over the course of the four years? That’s almost doable. Getting right to $10,000 is pretty tough.

I know the state college system has done an analysis — many of them are offering baccalaureate degree programs now — and under their own calculation, I think they’re down to about $13,500 if a student gets an A.A. degree and then transfers into that program, what they’re going to pay out of pocket.

Again, it’s a prod. It’s sort of like what I said about Speaker Weatherford talking about online education sort of stimulated the discussion. I think what Gov. Scott’s trying to do there is to focus on costs. How can we do this? But it’s a good idea to keep people focused on costs and make sure people are getting their money’s worth, and I think in large part that’s what Gov. Scott was able to do with that.

Whether we end up with $10,000 degrees or not — probably not. Or if they are, they’re only going to be for a minute and then the electric bill goes up and the insurance bill goes up. All of that goes into the cost of education as well. It’s not just the professor standing in front of the classroom. It’s a business. If we can find a way to hold costs down, then we can stay cheaper.

Q: You’ve repeatedly stressed the connection between higher education and economic development.

MOORE: It’s critical, absolutely critical, and the Scott administration has been very receptive.

Using the assets of higher education as part of the magnet, if you will, the tool to entice businesses to come here — California did that very effectively 30 years ago, building Silicon Valley.

Florida has a lot of wonderful higher ed assets, and what we’re trying to do is blend that, bring those in as assets. So if you’re dealing with, for example, an aeronautics company that wants to come to Florida and wants to know “What’s available for us here?” Go to the specific institutions in Florida that offer programs that would be related to that and build packages. The faculty will work with them. Their employees, if they come here, can work on advanced degrees. And how do we build those? And we’re doing a great job now of doing thatWe’re going to have a lot more businesses.

We’re already starting to see that. This administration is attracting corporate headquarters to come here, bringing people here. And it’s the quality of education, in large part, that keeps people where they are. I worked for 20 years in the Chicago area. Worst climate in America. Highest tax rates the tax rates are just absurd. And yet corporate headquarters are all based there, particularly in the county we were in, just north of Chicago. Main reason was the quality of life by the quality of the schools. And that’s what Florida needs to emulate. And once we do that, this’ll be the place everyone wants to come.

We’ve got the best climate in the country. We’ve got the best tax structure in the country. The missing ingredient is that quality of life — how do you blend it? We have it, but how do we sell it? And that’s what we’re trying to do.

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