Next Senate President Puts Focus On Universities


Highlighting what is expected to be one of the focuses of his tenure as Senate president, Sen. Joe Negron announced Monday he will take a four-day “listening tour” of state universities.

Negron, R-Stuart, said he would visit each of Florida’s 12 public universities — literally traveling from Pensacola to Miami and Boca Raton — starting April 18 at the University of West Florida. Stops at Florida State University and Florida A&M University are also scheduled for the first day.

The following day, Negron will tour the University of North Florida, University of Florida and University of Central Florida. On April 20, he plans to visit the newest school, Florida Polytechnic University, as well as the University of South Florida and New College of Florida.

The trip would end on April 21 with stops at Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University.

“We look forward to making our state university system a focus of the next two years, and this listening tour will provide important insight for future legislative action,” Negron said in announcing the tour.

Negron is set to become Senate president after the November elections.

According to Negron’s announcement, he plans to tour one program or college at each university and talk with university administrators, faculty members and students.

The press release rolling out Negron’s tour didn’t mention any policy prescription, but the future Senate president laid out some plans last year when he was formally tapped for the position. At the time, Negron proposed increasing university funding by $1 billion over two years and offering a slate of changes that would include making financial aid programs more generous for students and competing for top out-of-state students.

Negron said university presidents told him the state needed to work on recruiting and retaining faculty, improving graduate and professional schools and upgrading infrastructure across the university system.

“My vision is for our universities in Florida, which are good, to go to the next level, to become national elite destination universities, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin,” Negron said at the time.

Universities received a $75 million funding increase in the budget for the year beginning July 1, tied to a performance funding model that lawmakers have been leaning on more heavily.

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