Is higher education leadership in Florida wasting tax payers money?
By Roger Caldwell
There are major financial mismanagement problems throughout the state college system in Florida. This is not a new problem in the system, but after it was publicly reported that trustees at Florida State College at Jacksonville agreed to a $1.2 million severance package with the outgoing president, our governor decided to take some action.
It appears that someone was asleep at the switch, because the trustees agreed to this severance package and the president will be able to work at home, and also receive the money. Dr. Wallace resigned last week after disclosure about financial and payments management, his spending habits, and operational problems at Florida’s fourth-largest community college.
Operational problems at FSCJ have been mounting since it was revealed that there were millions in financial aid mistakes. Almost 1,700 appeals for federal loans and Pell Grants were wrongly approved between 2010 and this spring, leading the college to owe the U.S. Department of Education $4.2 million.
This has turned into a mess, and a review of Dr. Wallace’s expense spending prompted the Board of Trustees to put restrictions on his spending and travel. Once the trustees put restrictions on Dr. Wallace, he decided to resign, and follow in the footsteps of the president of Edison State College in southwest Florida.
This president resigned earlier in the year and reached a $540,000 settlement with his trustees. This settlement was reached after numerous allegations of failed leadership and inappropriate spending. Together these two presidents will walk away from their jobs and make close to $2 million and now the governor is asking the chief inspector to review the contracts of 28 presidents who control and manage the state college system.
Governor Scott has been in office for almost 2 years, and he appointed a higher education panel to analyze and improve the accountability in the system. But the panel missed holding the leaders in the system accountable to the proper operating and financial procedures. Instead of correcting a blatant disregard for proper operating systems, the panel is recommending raising tuitions.
Again it appears that the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Higher Education Panel was asleep at the switch. If Sandy Shugart, president of Orlando’s Valencia College was terminated, he would receive $113,000 as a settlement, and the taxpayers must begin to ask the question if this is fair. Most of the 28 presidents have a good severance package and the Florida taxpayer is responsible for paying their severance.
There is no quick fix to solving the higher education operating and financial system in Florida. In order for the higher education system to be successful, the graduate must be able to get a job, and earn a good income. Florida’s higher education leaders must operate with a vision and develop a path to future job placement.
When our leaders waste our taxpayer’s money, they hurt our children. Visionary leaders in education will move our state forward with accountability benchmarks, and a measurement of how many graduating students find great jobs.