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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Editorials

Criser a good pick for higher education chancellor

Published:

The state’s new higher education chancellor can be expected to introduce accountability measures that might be more familiar in the business world than in academia.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In choosing Marshall Criser III as chancellor of the State University System, the Board of Governors now has an established name in Florida’s business community with a family legacy in higher education.

At a time of instability in the top ranks of the state’s education system, Criser’s selection brings someone on board with a deep understanding of Florida and the need to support higher education.

Although Criser may not have the advanced degrees, or a resume’ filled with academic jobs, he has been on the front lines in establishing higher education policy as vice chairman of the University of Florida’s board of trustees, and as a member of the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Council. His father is a former UF president.

Criser will step down as president of AT&T in Florida to begin focusing on the thorny issues of tuition, college affordability, science and technology curriculums, and the competition facing the state’s 12 universities.

We trust he will be equal in his treatment. Over the years, the University of South Florida has had to fight its way out of the long shadows cast by Florida State and UF, the latter being Criser’s alma mater.

He replaces Frank Brogan, who spent a career moving up the education ranks, from teacher to superintendent, and from university president to chancellor. His sudden departure for a similar job in Pennsylvania left a void, and followed the resignation of the state’s education commissioner over K-12 schools.

Criser’s path to chancellor isn’t nearly as conventional. In addition to running AT&T in Florida, Criser has been head of the state Chamber of Commerce, and chairman of the nonprofit Florida Council of 100, which promotes economic growth.

But it was those business ties that were attractive to Gov. Rick Scott, and to the state’s Board of Governors, which hired Criser on a unanimous vote. His challenge now is to draw from all of those experiences to strengthen the higher education system that underpins the economy.

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