After meeting for about a half hour with Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, incoming Florida Senate president Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he and the governor seem to be in general agreement about their future goals for Florida's 12 public universities.
Enhancing the State University System -- and adding $1 billion in funding to it over two years -- is a priority for Negron as he's poised to take over the Senate in November. Last week, Negron and a handful of other senators toured all of the universities to learn about each institution's needs and goals.
"I updated the governor on some of the things that we learned during the university tour," Negron told reporters after the meeting at the Florida Capitol. "I think there’s a strong alignment of policy and budget goals, with my commitment to universities."
Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Negron "requested a meeting to discuss his priorities." She had no comment on what they discussed, because the governor typically doesn't talk about private meetings.
But the universities have been on Scott's mind, also.
Negron said Scott has a summit planned next month in Orlando, "where he's bringing in large employers, boards of trustees and university and community college presidents."
Schutz confirmed the event will be called the "Degrees to Jobs" Education Summit. It will be held May 25-26, and a list of speakers should be announced later this week, she said.
Negron's policy goals for the university system include: Recruiting and retaining top faculty, improving graduate schools, and "making sure that every student can attend the university to which they've been accepted regardless of their financial background," he said.
"That may require them to work part-time and contribute themselves or their families, but we want to make sure that financial insecurity doesn’t keep students from going to a university or keep them from graduating on time," Negron said.
For example, he wants to improve funding for Bright Futures scholars to cover 100 percent of tuition and $300 a semester for books. He said he hopes lawmakers will approve that in the 2017 session, so next year's graduating high school seniors can start enjoying those benefits the following fall.