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Florida universities could get $300 million restored, Brogan says

Florida University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said he’s been assured by Gov. Rick Scott’s office and legislative leaders that the $300 million eliminated from the state system last year will be restored this year.

 "This year we have asked for the restoration of the $300 million that was cut last year," Brogan said during a 30-minute talk with reporters. "We've been committed to by the leadership of the House, the Senate, the Governor, they all want the same thing."

Later, Brogan repeated the claim.
"We asked for our $300 million back and we have that commitment.”
That claim comes a week after the Joe Negron, the Senate’s appropriations chair, said no such restoration has been decided yet, saying instead that it is “on the table.”

 Brogan, who as chancellor oversees the state’s 12 universities, said in addition to getting the $300 million restored, he is also seeking an additional $100 million to be distributed among the universities to improve access and keep up with enrollment growth.

“The return will dwarf that investment,” Brogan said. “We guarantee that.”

Brogan said that Florida has relied for too long on a three-legged stool for the economy: agriculture, tourism and growth. Now is the time to invest in higher education to diversity the economy, he said.

“Why can’t Florida spawn innovation and creation?” Brogan said. “Why can’t we drive job creation by harnessing the power of higher education?”

He provided no better explanation as to how one key legislative priority championed by House Speaker Will Weatherford, an investment of $30 million to $70 million for online education, could develop. He said some universities will put their brand on the education, and that the on-line courses now provided will have to be better organized statewide. Earlier this week, Weatherford had to clarify that his wish for virtual education does not mean a 13th university. 

UPDATE: Randy Goin, Brogan's chief of staff, said that Brogan doesn't know if Scott has committed to restoring the $300 million. But Goin did say that Brogan's office has been encouraged by good discussions with Scott about next year's budget. "We are feeling very good about what they may be recommending for higher eduction," Goin said in an e-mail.