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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 21, 2011 8 years ago

Accountability U.

Rick Scott sent letters last week to Florida's university presidents, and they weren't love letters. He wants evidence they are producing results.

When Gov. Rick Scott told voters berfore the 2010 election he would hold state government accountable, it turns out he wasn't just another populist politician popping off with empty promises.

Read this letter Scott sent last week to Florida's university presidents. It prompted John Saputo, a New College trustee, to remark: “This is awesome!! Finally a governor who is holding his university programs accountable!! As a trustee at New College, I am happy to help him enforce his vision ...” — Ed.

Dear [University President]:

As Governor, I was elected to get the Great State of Florida back to work. While Florida has made significant progress this year in creating 87,200 private sector jobs, which decreased the unemployment rate from 12% in December to 10.7% in August, we still have more than 900,000 Floridians out of work. Many university graduates are unable to find jobs in their field of study, and many employers are concerned that university graduates are not equipped with the appropriate writing skills, critical thinking skills and technical expertise needed to succeed.

In reflection of my personal life, I have been extremely blessed to have parents who have guided me, a wife who keeps me focused and a country that has provided me opportunities. As a child, my family lived in public housing; my father was a truck driver, and my mother was a store clerk.

The opportunity to work started for me at the age of seven. Eventually I attended junior college, followed by enlisting in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. I married my high school sweetheart, and together we purchased our first business, a donut shop, which allowed my mother to take care of my disabled father and my younger siblings.

As governor, I have formed the following principles: First, I do not want state government to do things that raise the cost of living in our state. I understand the resources it takes to raise a family. My parents struggled financially until my wife and I could help them.

Second, I want Floridians to have the opportunity to obtain the best education for which Florida taxpayers are willing to pay.

Third, I want Floridians to have resources available to seek employment. As we all know, the biggest challenge facing Floridians is finding a job.

Thank each of you for your efforts in ensuring Floridians are well-trained and educated for the work force of today and the future. I am especially appreciative of Florida State University President Barron's commitment in reviewing the Texas proposals to determine if any are relevant to our efforts here in Florida.

I have always believed the only way to ensure increasing levels of performance is by measuring outcomes using objective, data-driven criteria in a fully transparent environment, and more importantly, to use that measurement and information to develop plans for improvement.

To help me with my plan for higher education, please provide me with the following information by Nov.15:

A. What studies has your university done in the last three years to ensure your graduates are meeting the needs of employers?

B. Do you have measurable goals to meet employers' current needs? If so, please provide them. How often are these goals updated?

C. Do you have measurable goals for each graduate in the areas of writing proficiency and critical thinking? If so, please send them to me with the goals and include the results for the last five to 10 years.

D. Does your university offer or require a class that focuses on the development of writing proficiency and critical thinking skills? If so, please send me the data on the success of students who enrolled in that course.

E. Are professors required to integrate writing proficiency and critical thinking into all courses? If so, what oversight is provided to ensure that these skills are being taught? How are these skills integrated into course assessments?

F. Do you have measurable goals for student success after graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

G. Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

H. Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates with specific degrees such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nursing, etc? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.

I. What are the core subjects every undergraduate must complete prior to graduation?

J. Please send me a job description, total wages, number of courses instructed, and measurable goals for the 50 highest-paid employees for each of the last three years.

K. Do you measure the readiness of new students to succeed at your university? If so, do you measure on a per-incoming-high-school basis? If so, please send me the measurement and the results for the last five to 10 years.

L. What is your process in determining which programs to terminate and which programs to initiate? In the last 10 years, what programs were terminated and what programs were begun?

M. What programs do you have to educate students regarding job opportunities? What are your measurable goals for each program? Do you use information similar to the data available from the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) to prepare students prior to admission and prior to selection of major? Please provide me the results for the last five to 10 years.

N. How do you measure the university's cost and revenue per program? If so, please send me reports for the last five to 10 years. Additionally, please send me your individual measurable goals and tracking of your success during your term as university president.

O. Please send me your university's overall measurable goals and tracking from the last five to 10 years.

P. Do you perform 360-degree reviews with your Board of Trustees? If so, please provide me with these reviews from the last five to 10 years.

Q. Please provide me with any additional information you think may be helpful, including your thought process to make sure we are headed in the right direction.

Hopefully, most of this information is readily available in an electronic format as I know there are a number of reports you already submit with much of what I am requesting.

We have a great opportunity to ensure we keep the cost of living low in Florida, ensure Floridians have the opportunity to get a great education and ensure Floridians have the opportunity to find employment.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact either Steve MacNamara, my chief of staff, or Carrie O'Rourke, my deputy chief of staff responsible for education for Floridians.

I look forward to working with each of you.

Rick Scott, Governor

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