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Online-only university among Florida's options for more distance education

Florida's 12th university became a reality earlier this year, and there is already discussion about whether the state needs a 13th.

House Speaker Will Weatherford challenged the board governing state universities to look into creating an online-only school in order to increase access to distance education. And Monday, the Board of Governors received the results of an independent study on the topic and discussed next steps.

Conducted by The Parthenon Group, the report outlines four options for Florida's universities and colleges, both public and private.

The first allows each school to continue operating its own distance education program, represented the status quo, and it got the least amount of support from the Board of Governors' Strategic Planning Committee.

The second and third options — systemwide collaboration or allowing one or more institutions to serve as the lead drivers of new programs — got a more positive response. The committee asked staff to research a hybrid of these two choices ahead of next month's full board meeting.

Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson said he would like to have the state colleges and universities submit proposals to serve as lead institutions in order to create a sense of innovation and competition.

"We want to give them a prod," he said.

The board also decided to keep option four, a standalone online institution, on the table. But in a written response to the Parthenon report, state university provosts said they have "serious concerns" about creating a new university, such as the cost, competition with existing programs, establishing accreditation and creating another bureaucracy.

Read more here.