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News Clips 01/11/2013
Governor names two from Palm Beach County to universities’ governing board
Source: Palm Beach Post, 01/10/13
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By John Kennedy
Republican Gov. Rick Scott named five new members Thursday to the board of governors leading Florida’s universities – giving him a powerful hold on a panel that earlier resisted his calls for lower tuition and cost-cutting.
The five new appointees include H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., 51, president of West Palm Beach’s Rybovich Boat Co., and Wendy Link, 48, of Palm Beach Gardens, managing partner of a law firm bearing her name. Huizenga is the namesake son of the South Florida investor and former sports teams owner.
With the five new selections, Scott appointees now comprise nine-members of the 17-person State University System Board of Governors. The new members get seven-year terms and must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.
By adding new allies, the governor likely fortifies his drive to retool Florida’s university system, which he sees as central to the push to expand the state’s economy and create jobs.
Scott wants the state’s 12 public universities to enhance their focus on science, technology, engineering and math degrees – the so-called STEM disciplines which some analysts say are key to students finding their place in an evolving job market.
Scott also could find more support for belt-tightening. The Florida legislature cut university spending by $300 million last year, even as Scott insisted that tuition not be raised by the Board of Governors. But after the legislature adjourned, the panel acknowledged Florida universities needed more dollars and agreed to tuition hikes ranging from 9 percent to 15 percent.
Scott at the time said, “I’m disappointed…. Tuition rates have risen 71 percent over the past four years and graduates are facing unprecedented levels of debt. We can’t continue on this path.”
The other three appointees Thursday all come from Scott’s adopted hometown, Naples.
They are: Ned Lautenbach, 68, a retired partner in an investment firm, Edward Morton, 65, also an investment firm partner, and Alan Levine, president of a hospital management company, who served as an agency head under former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Anticipating renewed resistance, university presidents and student leaders last month said schools are willing to put a temporary moratorium on tuition increases if Florida lawmakers approve $118 million in new taxpayer funding this year.
The money basically would reflect the amount that could be drawn from a 15 percent tuition boost. Universities also said they expect the Legislature to replace the $300 million cut last year.
But the University of Florida and Florida State University also plan to seek legislative approval for a measure allowing them to boost tuition to the “market rate” — effectively whatever students will pay.
Scott last year vetoed the legislation. But UF, FSU and other schools which could later qualify for the tuition privilege have said they will make another attempt at convincing the governor this year.
UF President Bernie Machen announced after Scott’s veto that he planned to retire this year. But this week Machen said he will stay on – which many see as a signal the governor will prove more receptive to the legislation helping the state’s top two research schools.
While the average annual tuition to a Florida public university has spiked in recent years to $6,232 this fall, Florida’s cost ranks only 41st highest in the nation among states’ public university systems.
The $300 million reduction in taxpayer funding last year came after taxpayer dollars tumbled 24 percent the preceding four years, heightening the focus on tuition.