TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The chairman of the Board of Governors on Wednesday added to the growing list of committees, task forces and other panels examining higher education in Florida.
Dean Colson announced that his new seven-member commission will focus on access and degree attainment.
Colson is giving the panel a year to present its findings to the board, which oversees Florida's 11 - soon to be 12 - state universities.
The commission's task is to recommend ways the state can achieve a goal in the board's 2025 strategic plan of increasing four-year degree production by state colleges and universities from 53,000 to 90,000 each year.
"With the emergence of other task forces, some may question whether we need another group studying higher education," Colson wrote in a letter to other board members and State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.
Colson added that it's his opinion "now is the time to focus on the crucial issue of capacity."
He wrote that the Board of Governors' Commission on Florida Higher Education Access and Degree Attainment will be on a time table that will let it review the work of other panels before making final recommendations.
That includes Gov. Rick Scott's recently announced Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. Scott, a former business executive, has been at odds with university officials and faculty on issues ranging from tuition to course offerings.
Colson named himself to the commission but appointed board member Ava Parker to chair it. Parker is his predecessor in chairing the board.
Others on the commission are board member Thomas Kuntz, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan, Florida House Education Committee Chairman Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, High Education Coordinating Council Co-chairman Marshall Criser and Susan Pareigis, president of the Florida Council of 100, a group of business leaders that offers advice to public officials.
The State Board of Education oversees Florida's 28 state and community colleges.
Colson wrote that a couple of the questions the commission will try to answer are whether there will be enough college-ready high school graduates to meet the degree-production goal and what role the state colleges should play in that effort.
Others include whether the demand for more college graduates will be evenly distributed around Florida or disproportionate in some areas and if additional colleges and universities would be needed.
The state's newest university will officially come into being on July 1, when a law takes effect converting the University of South Florida's Lakeland branch into Florida Polytechnic University.
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