Rick Scott Would Gut Higher Education



Gov. Rick Scott’s wants to turn Florida’s universities into trade schools.

Scott wants to pump the Bright Futures scholarships into Science, Technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM subjects—at the expense of all others.

Achievers in Florida high schools are eligible to use Bright Futures for any subject today. That’s the way it should be.

But Scott’s flawed idea is catching fire in Tallahassee. Lawmakers have a plan to push all the Bright Futures money into those limited subjects.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe we should help STEM students and encourage them to stay in Florida universities.

But the fourth biggest state in the nation should be able to afford financial aid for students of all subjects.

Universities should not be trade school.

Florida can not have top universities by emphasizing just four subjects.

Top universities are places where students learn to think and judge critically…about all types of things.

Like Jeb Bush did.  He has a degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas.

Or Clarence Thomas, who has an undergraduate degree in English.  Or Billy Graham who has an undergraduate degree in anthropology.

“We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here,” Scott said in October to explain why Bright Futures should be steered away from non-STEM subjects.

Maybe he should consider Carly Fiorina, the former HP chairwoman and Republican candidate in California, who has a philosophy degree. Or Ronald Reagan, who was an economic and sociology major.

There is little relation between what a student takes at the university and their future achievements.

It was a lesson Scott obviously didn’t learn in college, which he struggled to pay for.

Scott was a business major, which is not a STEM subject.

He wouldn’t have qualified for a Bright Futures Scholarship under his own plan.


Surprise of surprises:  Conservative columnist Steven Kurlander agrees with my basic premise  here.

23 Responses to “Rick Scott Would Gut Higher Education”

  1. Steven Kurlander says:

    Buddy, thanks for the mention-I think.

  2. Sam the Sham says:

    Buddy, I completely disagree with both you and Kurlander on this. Too many kids are entering college without any idea what they want to do. They take generally useless subjects like journalism (sorry), art appreciation and sociology. They might as well study Classic Hair-combing or advanced basket weaving.

    I think Scott is very forward thinking in trying to create high tech demographics by encouraging high tech graduates. This will eventually greatly enhance Florida’s economy past tourism and commodities.


    I didn’t study journalism in college. I do think journalism degrees are largely a waste, except for the internships. I would much rather hire somebody who studied something they would end up covering. When I was an editor, I had a reporter ask me how many U. S. senators Florida had…and she was from an Ivy League college with an journalism degree!

    I didn’t need to take journalism. I was already doing it professionally. I have an elementary education degree, but was a miserable failure as a teacher. So I just continued doing what I was already doing on the side — journalism. College had absolutely nothing to do with my career, but maybe I am unusual.

  3. Richard J Kaplan says:

    I happen to be a Alumni High School Recruiter for the University of Michigan so I talk to future college students all the time.

    What I tell them (and is fact) is from 40 to 90% of incoming Freshman are undecided (the #1 incoming major) and 90% of students change their major at least once by their Junior year.

    During a lifetime it is not uncommon for people to change their occupation 3 or more time, so why not in college. Even those who start in STEM studies can change.

    Students should not be expected to make a life commitment at 17 or 18 years old when they enter college and expect to stick with it their entire life. They are too young for that.

    That is why universities require you to take classes in a variety of areas. So you can check them out and see what you like, plus get a well rounded education.

    The purpose of college is to prepare you for life, with all the life may throw at you. Not being forced to make a decision, or having the ability to change your mind, takes the pressure off the student and gives them time to think and grow.

    So I agree that many students go to college with no idea what they want to do, AND THIS IS A GOOD THING.

    Hopefully they will find their calling and have a better life.

    I agree that High Tech, STEM, is important. Just as important as any other field of study.

  4. Kevin says:

    Well, here at FIU we have 40,000 students, and nearly 2,000 of them are our majors in the Department of Politics and International Relations. Believe it or not, we are considered a STEM Department! For example, I teach a Ph.D. level statistics in social science seminar (basically, a class on polling and stuff like that). Now, I’ll be the first to admit that that is a small minority of what we teach, but at the graduate level courses like this are required in nearly all social sciences (including sociology… I also tend to make fun of the sociologists, but I’m just kidding).

    I WILL agree that many if not most high school students who come directly to us are totally unprepared to do the kind of math that those of us in our 40s and 50s learned in middle school. I will further admit that most of them cannot construct a 250-word persuasive essay in any way that I consider even passing at the college level. But the way to solve that problem is NOT to gut that type of teaching in college, but to stop it with this friggin’ standardized tests in primary and secondary school that test nothing substantive and cause teachers and administrators to “teach to the test.”

    I could go on.

    Kevin Hill.

  5. triggerman says:

    Sam: While it seems to be true that less of our kids have clear-cut decisions on what they want, I think you portray a narrow view of how their decisions equate to what colleges and universities offer for course work. I also think it is not a bad thing to look to universities to create “magnet” type programs in the “STEM” courses. It will help. But the whole point of education is based on an individual’s perspective. It’s not right to equate a student’s “non-decision” to what’s important in course offerings. Not everyone takes the classics just to get by. That’s what makes us all so unique. And the universities have always been charged with offering those options to anyone. This doesn’t mean I am opposed to the need for focus on the STEM type course work. I am not. If we don’t provide this we will be so far behind the 8 ball we might not recover. And our state is certainly doing it’s best it seems to provide opportunities for our kids to go elsewhere. A sad scenario for our future. What you consider useless is absolutely your opinion. But your “useless” is someone else’s passion. We should concentrate the dialogue on reality. We need more hi tech students to stay in Florida and we need solutions to meet that goal. I don’t think wacking everything but STEM course work from Bright Futures is the answer.

  6. s only says:

    Let the guv/legislature offer additional scholarships for STEM rather than gutting Bright Futures. Incentives for going into STEM—which, Buddy, are NOT “trade school” subjects, as you say. The only way to lift our University system (and K-12) is to put more $ into it. Show me the money—then teaching would be more competitive and not just females with good hearts who serve the public with little compensation/respect.

  7. Education De-Form says:

    You can’t have Education Reform without investment. You can not change the course of where we are headed in our educational system without investment.

    Perhaps this de-form strategy is motivated by the goal of increasing opportunity for those interested in STEM studies. If so, that motivation is good.

    But, this is another example of this Administration and the ideologues who falsely claim they support public education and higher education.

    Shifting the deck chairs is not the answer.

    Increase the amount of scholarships going to STEM students WITHOUT reducing the scholarship program. That means investing more in scholarships and financial support.

    Increase the amount of vocational and occupational training available. That means investing more in programs and qualified teachers.

    Increase the commitment to vocational/occupational training in high school, since too many can not even affod public higher education. That means investing in public education.

    Increase the value we place in great teachers. That means investing in the classroom.

    Increase the value we place in thinkers, inventors and dreamers. The foundation for experimenting begins in pre-K and elementary schools. That means investing in children at younger age.

    This is not a “Red” or “Blue” issue. Strategies like the Governors are ideologically based, but those who are not captured by the myopic ideologues agree: we are going the wrong direction when we reduce support for education.

  8. Real Deal says:

    Few things in life are more miserable than working in a field you hate.

    We see it all the time, workers even professionals like doctors and lawyers who hate their work and it shows. That’s a terrible way to live and we should not want that for any of our children.

    Sadly, too few of us love what we do or find it early in life. Yet each of us has a trace of star dust that makes us special. It calls to us from the darkness and our job is to attune our hearing to detect that call.

    The star dust in each of us wants us to follow our natural path toward the star from which we came.

    Each person needs to find their own path in life. They need to experience that inner magnetism toward a field.

    It’s never about the rewards or trappings of a field of work. It is always about wanting to do the work itself. Being curious about it. Seeing it as art, considering work in that field as fun. When you find that, you’ve found your path. Too few of us do and that’s tragic.

    If all that college did was help us achieve that one thing, it would be worth it. The rest you can do in graduate or professional school. Or in life. Finding what to do with yourself is the number one important job of college.

  9. No Nonsense says:

    “The 22 fields, disciplines, projects, and areas of research at the School represent the most diverse range of scholarship at MIT. One quality they have in common is the capacity to illuminate the important questions and potentials of our time.”

    Quote From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Mission Statement of their School of Humanities Arts and Social Science

    This guy Scott is one of the many reasons I shy away from admitting, in mixed company, I’m from Florida

  10. Plain Language says:

    Teaching and the quality of education in Florida was at a low point about 15 years ago.

    The teaching profession stopped being concerned with educating kids and the result was evident in the ability of young people to function in the real world. Instead, teachers became more interested in earning more pay for less work and better working conditions.

    This is where unchecked unionization will lead society every time. We take a good thing (unions) and convert it into a Frankenstein that kills what good it offers. That is exactly what has become of the labor movement. It no longer cares what the workers produce. It simply wants to sap the system for all it can get.

    To get back on track, standardized tests were introduced by Republicans like Jeb Bush. I hate that fact more than I can so but we would be lying if we didn’t give the credit to who it belongs to.

    The tests were motivated by a need for students to demonstrate some command of core curriculum. For them to do that, education would need to return to the system. Teachers would be “burdened” with teaching and they complained about it. That too burned my cheeks because I am a left leaning person but it would likewise be wrong to not tell the truth.

    The goal has increasingly been achieved. Kids are absolutely learning more and better today than they did 15 years ago.

    If kids at FIU can’t write an essay or do basic math, that’s because FIU is accepting kids that are not prepared properly for college. This is not the case with students at FSU, UF, or UCF who went to the same high schools but can do the work.

    This shows that standardized testing has not yet achieved the goal of giving each kid by the time they graduate the basic skills needed. They need to ramp it up a bit, change it perhaps but not abandon it because the crutch is still needed to hold up the system.

    We can leave standardized testing once the teaching profession demonstrates that this crutch to performance is no longer necessary.

    Teachers must be held accountable for outcomes and are too quick to blame parents or other factors for their inability to get kids to learn. It is a cop out excuse for teacher failure. Parents are no different today than they ever were.

    On this point I do agree with the teachers. You cannot hold them accountable but fail to give them the tools and the rewards they need to get the job done.

    I am a democrat who believes in standardized tests because they are needed to ensure that kids learn something. Before the tests they learned nothing. Now at least they are better educated than was the case.


    I agree teachers should be held accountable. The problem is that teaching success is subjective and hard to measure.

    One kid’s success is measured by learning how to read on a fifth grade level when he couldn’t read at all before. Another kid’s success is measured by getting A’s in advanced math.

    All kids are not equal. They can not be educated the same way. They can’t fit in a cookie-cutter mold.

    A large factor in a student’s failure is the home environment. Kids achieve more when education is valued by parents. Parents must be teammates with the teachers. Kids achieve more when reading is emphasized at home, rather than planting the kid in front of the TV or the computer.

    I’ve been at schools where four parents show up in a class of 40 for parents night. I’ve been at schools — for instance the Nova schools where my kids went — where almost every parent shows up. I don’t have to tell you which school produced students who knew more and were better prepared for college and life.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Not sure how I feel about this issue but you are wrong on one important point. “Top universities are places where students learn to think and judge critically…about all types of things.” More often than not top universities are places where young minds are polluted by liberal partisans who hide behind walls, ivied or otherwise, never having to put their BS theories to the test of the unforgiving marketplace. The only thinking encouraged in most universities is liberal speak and the critical part about it is the life support it puts our economy on when their theory does become action.


    Which one of those liberal bastions would you be talking about? Harvard, which “polluted” Mitt Romney’s young mind or Yale, which “polluted” George W. Bush’s young mind?

    Or would that be Arthur Laffer, the tenured economics professor at the University of Chicago, who went to Yale and Sanford before pioneering the idea for Ronald Reagan that cutting taxes would increase government revenue by building the economy? I guess he wasn’t hiding behind the university walls.

    Almost all the conservative advisers in Republican administrations have been educated in Ivy League schools and many of them were picked right from the faculties of those schools. I guess their brains couldn’t be washed.

    If everybody was brainwashed into a liberal by college, how come the Republicans win elections with a majority of the college educated voting for them?

  12. Floridan says:

    Most of the people I went to college with 40 years ago ended up changing their majors a couple times before graduating. Both of my kids did the same, and I’m sure that hasn’t — and won’t — change.

    The fact is, upon entering the university a new student is exposed to majors and career paths that he or she might not have realized existed.

    One of the big problems our society faces is a narrowing of perspective — we know what we know and have contempt for all other views, knowledge and expereinces. This is exemplified by the anti-intellectualism expressed by Scott and others.

    Back when I was attending one of our state universities, most of my friends were liberal arts majors, and most of them did quite well in life. Some made a career in teir chosen field, others ended up in businesses and one ran a plumbing business. But, then, what wrong with a plumber who has read James Joyce or who knows the difference between Descartes and Durkheim?

  13. don't have a cowan says:

    Buddy, if you haven’t noticed, we are broke. I see nothing wrong with the Gov directing limited resources to subject areas that will make us competitive. If you want another subject or major, get a job like the rest of us did and put yourself through school. Don’t expect the taxpayers to do it. We are broke from that sort of thinking.

    Bright Futures is funded by Florida’s Lottery. What I believe the Legislature is seeking to do is reallocate the money from the lottery to further cut the other money for education.

    Also, I don’t believe we are broke. We are only broke in Florida because of the misguided tax policies of the Legislature.

  14. Majors & Career Paths says:

    College students are being exposed to (and going deeply into debt for) majors that do exist but which are associated with career paths that don’t exist. Go to YouTube and view the video “The Ivy League Hustle”…


  15. Majors, Career Paths & Debt says:

    Education funding levels in Florida are terrible – Florida is near the bottom among US states – and that should be corrected by taxing the rich to pay for increases in education funding. But there should also be a much better connection between college and the workplace. Excluding students who are independently wealthy – the rest need jobs. What they are getting instead is life-crushing student loan debts.

    As the hilarious “Ivy League Hustle” video makes clear, students are told that “knowledge is power” only to find that even the most elite students (Bachelor’s from Princeton, Master’s from Harvard) might earn only $14 an hour after graduation.

    There needs to be a much better way to match students who need jobs after graduation with employers who need to hire. Students don’t currently get accurate, reliable information that would help them decide what to study, and employers don’t give information on what their future needs will be. With five-figure and even six-figure student loan burdens at stake, a much, much better system is needed.

  16. Watcher says:

    Number 13 above says “we’re broke” ….really!!!…try getting a table on Saturgay nite in a good restraunt in this town…nah the rich are doing fine…Floridan is right as usual and Sham is always not

  17. Real Deal says:

    This notion that college causes liberalism is hogwash. The notion that college is not worth the money is even more hogwash. We used to be a smarter nation than that.

    I happen to believe that one’s political preferences has to do with a wide variety of basic and very personal determinations.

    One involves our duty to others. Those that believe in limited duty to others tend to be conservatives whereas those who feel a strong duty to others tend to be liberals. There are arguments to be made in both instances.

    Also a factor is what kind of approach one takes to thinking to solving problems. Rules based thinkers who allow rules to guide problem solving to an tend to be conservatives while outcome based thinkers who look for answers and then rules that allow that oucome tend to be liberal. There are likewise pros and cons to those approaches.

    Then there are human nature judgments. There are those who believe man’s basic nature is bad and they tend to be conservative. Those who believe that man’s basic nature is good tend to be liberals. These are pretty consistent observations that have some exceptions but tend to be true.

    Interestingly enough, many tend to join political parties based on their own family history and however illogical it might seem they defend their choice on a family history basis. It’s emotional rather than thoughful.

    In college, students are exposed to all manner of viewpoint and debate as they undergo that educational and intellectual exploration. The notion that exposing them to these explorations results in them becoming liberal or conservative is without merit for the very reasons Buddy points out.

    The proof is in the pudding. Conservatives and liberals have degrees. Even if some have an easier time spelling potato than others…

  18. Who Watches The Watchers says:

    “we’re broke” ….really!!!…try getting a table on Saturgay nite in a good restraunt in this town…nah the rich are doing fine…”

    Typical Leftist thinking. “They still have disposable income, so there is lots more to steal from them in taxes. Why leave anything on the table?”

  19. Becky Blackwood says:

    A review of the top engineering schools in the U. S. show that four Florida colleges are in the top 50. University of South Florida 22, University of Central Florida 32, Florida Institute of Technology 34 and the University of Florida 49.

    Broward Schools offer pre-engineering and science or STEM classes in only 2 high schools, Blanche Ely and Stranahan. Even if our Governor wants to limit the Bright Future Scholarships to only engineering and science, how does he plan to develop more interest in engineering at the high school level?

    The University of Florida has the largest engineering student population with 2,583 full time students and 322 part time students, USF has 632 full time and 159 part time students and UCF has 750 full time and 359 part time students.

    How many engineering students can the State of Florida absorb in its economy a year? And who is to say if the Bright Futures Scholarship engineering students will stay in Florida, considering the entry level salaries here? Or is Scott going to require in those scholarships, these graduates stay in Florida? Is Scott planning on using the number of engineering graduates to lure businesses to Florida? I think he had better look to focusing on improving secondary education in order to provide quality education to the employees of those big businesses he is giving all the tax breaks.

    Forgot to list the other engineering colleges – Florida A&M in conjunction with Florida State is ranked 127 and FAU 156.

  20. Reality Check says:

    Youmean by oppossing testing and watering down results to prevent anyone from being able to tell how little our kids are really learning?

  21. Jeanne says:

    Opposing the sole use of one measure doesn’t water down anything. It has been an ill conceived idea from the start and there is so much data and research out that debunks Jeb Bush’s notions of what kind of accountability drives kids to succeed.

    There should be multiple measures to allow for teacher to see whether their methods are actually reaching the students. There are innovations out there. Broward just doesn’t like to stick to what works.

  22. Steve Schwinn says:

    Not only is bright futures fully funded by the lottery, but it also only takes about a quarter of the money the lottery generates. There is plenty of money in the lottery for this program. But members of the legislature are so green from term limits that they have no idea what is going on.

  23. Mark Sierens says:

    The issue is more then just the stem programs. It comes down to proper preparation for what areas to study. Right now there are not enough councilors in the well funded schools let alone the lower income areas.

    Those that have a plan on what they want to do are a little better off. However when for profit schools are ratcheting up the marketing to attract more uninformed students.

    If you want a comprehensive reform , start with the for profit sector, then move from there. There are much better ways to address our educational system then to focus on the stem program.