FLs higher ed leaders wasting dollars

caines | 10/25/2012, 5:30 a.m.

There are major financial mismanagement problems throughout the Florida college system. This is not a new problem, 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 allowing the president to work at home, while receiving the money. Dr. Steven R. Wallace resigned last week after disclosure about his financial and payment management, as well as spending habits and operational problems at Floridas 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 $4.2M. This has turned into a mess, especially after a review of Wallaces expenses prompted the Board of Trustees to apply restrictions on his spending and travel. And when that happened, he decided to resign following in the footsteps of the former president of Edison State College in Fort Meyers, Florida. This president resigned earlier in the year and received a $540,000 settlement from 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 now Governor Scott is asking the chief inspector to review the contracts of 28 presidents who control and manage the state college system. Scott has been in office for almost two years and 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 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 Governors blue ribbon higher education panel was asleep at the switch. Because if Sandy Shugart, president of Orlandos Valencia College was terminated, he would receive $113,000 as a settlement, so Florida taxpayers must begin to ask if this is fair? Most of the 28 presidents have a good severance package and the Florida taxpayer is responsible for paying that severance. There is no quick fix to solving the higher education operating and financial system in Florida. Floridas higher education leaders must operate with a vision and develop a path to future job placement. In order for the higher education system to be successful, the graduate must be able to get a job and earn a good income. When our leaders waste our taxpayers 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 are finding jobs equivalent to their degrees. Roger Caldwell is the CEO of On Point Media Group in Orlando.