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Weatherford Promises More University Funding at Forum in Orlando

January 30, 2013 | WMFE - Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is vowing to change the state's public higher education system Speaking Tuesday at a forum sponsored by the Orlando Sentinel, the State House Speaker says the system can't continue on the same path it's on now.

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Weatherford vowed to change how Florida’s public universities do business. He spoke about the need to keep tuition rates low but also pushed for letting some of the universities, such as the University of Florida and Florida State University, break free of the state’s tuition caps.

“Tuition should be cheap if you’re going to a state or community college. It should be cheap if you’re going to a non-research based institution.” Weatherford said. “But it should not be cheap if you’re going to a research university in the state of Florida. There’s a difference.” 

Those words echo a proposal launched last year that would have established those schools as “pre-eminent” universities and recognizing their capacity for bringing in research money.

The concept of pre-eminence has also emerged as a major policy point established by a task force created by Governor Rick Scott to look at higher education reform.

Weatherford also promised to restore the $300 million dollars lawmakers cut from university reserve accounts.

“I thought it was wrong, I thought it was at the last minute. I thought that we punished the people who saved the money.” Weatherford said.  “If it was a business out there, we’d want them to have reserves, and we took it and I didn’t think that was right. But the legislature’s going to restore that money this year. You’ll see in our budget that $300 million dollars will be restored.”  

Weatherford says he hopes the state will be able to add even more money to higher education. Meanwhile, the speaker is also pushing for more online degree programs and possibly an online university along with creating a performance-based funding structure for schools. Weatherford was part of a panel conversation on the future of higher education hosted by the Orlando Sentinel.



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