Gov. Scott speaks out about FSCJ problems

FSCJ board criticized for giving outgoing president $1.2 million to leave

Published On: Oct 12 2012 09:52:34 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 13 2012 03:46:43 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida Governor Rick Scott spoke out Friday about the $1.2 million severance deal Florida State College at Jacksonville gave to its outgoing president, calling it a golden parachute.

“I don't understand why we're doing that. This money, this is your tax dollars,” said Scott.

The comments come after a higher education task force appointed by Gov. Rick Scott moved a step closer to issuing a range of proposals that could help change how Florida universities are funded and what they charge students to attend.

Earlier this month, Scott called for an investigation into mounting problems at FSCJ.

"When we go to Tallahassee, we need to watch your money. We don't expect that money to go into $1.2 million severance packages. 

Gov. Scott said he'll do "the right thing" when asked if FSCJ's Board of Directors needs to be removed.

"The inspector general is doing a review, and we'll look at that,” said Scott.

Wallace has not responded to inquiries about his big payday.

Gwen Yates, the college's board chairman, released a statement in which she said the school is cooperating with the investigation.

"I appreciate and respect the governor's continued interest in FSCJ. He has asked for review of certain items. All of us, from the board throughout the college, will provided whatever assistance we can to ensure a prompt thorough and accurate review," said Yates.

The controversy about Wallace's pricey departure comes as students at Florida's public higher education institutions face potential tuition increases.

Members of Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education discussed on Friday scrapping an existing 15 percent annual cap on tuition increases and replacing it with a model based on market rates and accountability measures.

State Rep. Bill Proctor, a member of the task force, and others agreed market tuition could be beneficial for Florida's universities and still within students' means.

"Not many schools are going to price themselves out of existence," Proctor said.

Scott vetoed legislation in April that would have let Florida and Florida State exceed the 15 percent cap, saying he wanted a more detailed plan to make sure students get a return on their investment.

Florida universities have among the lowest tuition in the nation, though it has increased in recent years as state funding has declined. In order for university board of trustees to go beyond the cap, the Legislature would need to give up its tuition-setting authority. A pending Florida Supreme Court case, however, argues that a constitutional amendment that created the Board of Governors, which oversees the state universities, also gives that panel tuition-setting control.

The task force also considered ideas including setting lower tuition rates for degrees in fields where Florida needs more workers, as a means of encouraging students to enter those fields. The final recommendations will be sent to the governor by Oct. 30.