Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on virtual campus:
The University of Florida plans to boost its enrollment by about 50 percent over the next decade — with a major caveat.
The expected 24,152 additional students are going to be on a virtual campus, not in Gainesville.
UF has offered online degree programs for years, mainly on the graduate level. Its new effort, called UF Online, is different in that it will provide completely online undergraduate degree programs aimed at attracting freshmen as well as the more typical transfer students.
State lawmakers authorized the effort and provided initial funding this past session, mandating that its in-state students pay 75 percent or less of the tuition paid by their on-campus counterparts. ...
UF Online should attract a different cohort of students than the on-campus university. Their average age is expected to be 25, including those with jobs and other obligations that keep them from campus.
Expanding access to the university at a reasonable price is a good thing. But there's also a risk of losing the in-person interactions that help students broaden their perspectives and make connections.
In his latest State of the University address, UF President Bernie Machen gave examples of students in the university's online programs. ...
UF officials say they're developing ways to create an online sense of community for students in the online program. They're also considering "Gator Dens" in some of the state's major cities where those students could meet and see advisers.
Another concern is that UF Online might become the go-to option for students of modest means, risking making the main campus a place just for students from wealthy backgrounds. UF must maintain diversity in all its offerings.
It also needs to maintain quality. The university doesn't have to pay for on-campus infrastructure and gets other savings with online students, but it can't expect to ramp up enrollment so significantly without adding faculty and making other investments.
UF Online offers great promise for the university to raise revenue and take a leading role in the growing field of online education. But UF and other universities in that field also must ensure that they're not losing their best qualities in the process.
Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on state should take the $51 billion in Medicaid money:
One million of Florida's poorest residents are eligible for health insurance under the expanded Medicaid income guidelines associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But many of them will be relegated to the sidelines as enrollment begins Oct. 1 in the health-care marketplaces being formed under the new law, known as Obamacare.
That's because the state House, under the leadership of Speaker Will Weatherford, refuses to budge on a decision last spring to reject $51 billion from the federal government to expand Medicaid in Florida over the next 10 years.
We call on Weatherford, and Gov. Rick Scott, to re-evaluate that decision now that the state's business leaders and major health-care providers are pleading with them to reverse course and take the money.
State Rep. Matt Hudson, a Republican from Naples who testified last week before a congressional committee investigating the effects of Obamacare on the states, says the expansion won't lessen the number of uninsured, will strain an already lean health care workforce, and will add to the borrowing the federal government must undertake to pay its bills. ...
A University of Florida study estimates the Medicaid expansion would create 120,000 jobs in Florida over the next 10 years, with about 7,400 of those in Hillsborough County. In June, two health insurance coalitions representing some of the nation's largest corporations — including Disney, Target and Wal-Mart — joined with industry associations and hospital operators in warning the state that rejecting the money could cost jobs and ultimately result in rising premiums for employees across Florida.
A reasonable compromise was floated during the last legislative session, a state Senate plan that would have used the federal Medicaid money to enable the poor to obtain private insurance with modest monthly premiums and co-pays.
It was a compromise that satisfied the governor and the Senate but was rejected by the House, which offered a plan to spend state tax dollars to insure only a portion of the 1 million poor who might get insurance under the Medicaid expansion.
At the press conference in Tampa, that Senate plan was invoked by local leaders who think it offers a viable alternative. We agree and urge House leaders to reconsider that plan, or fashion a reasonable compromise that covers the poor and delivers the $51 billion.
Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal on a chance to register to vote:
National Voter Registration Day is a chance for people to get into the game of electing local, state and federal leaders. We urge those who aren't registered to do so today.
After all, getting registered now will allow people to be ready for next year when many local and state races take place, along with congressional contests to determine control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
National Voter Registration Day was born out of necessity, the state League of Women Voters points out. In 2008, some 6 million eligible voters did not cast a ballot because they missed the voter registration deadline or did not know how to register. ...
More than 280 Leagues from 43 states will join with more than 800 partners to register Americans to vote, the state League of Women Voters said. Florida voters can log onto Vote411.org to register to vote or check the status of their voter file. Those who have moved, even to just another address in the county, need to update their voter information.
We appreciate today's efforts to get people registered to vote. We live in a representative form of government where voting is vital to making the system work, whether it's determining the makeup of a county commission, school board or city council. When only 30 percent of the people vote, winners who get 60 percent on Election Day are only elected by 18 percent of the eligible voters. When one person out of five makes the decisions, something is wrong.
Besides, sometimes a candidate wins a four-year term by a handful of votes. The 2000 presidential election came down to Florida's electoral votes. The official margin of victory in the state was 537 votes, a miniscule number considering the tens of millions cast nationwide.
It's the job of every citizen to make sure candidates are elected, not selected. If you are not registered to vote, here is a chance to stop standing on the sidelines and get in the game. If you aren't helping make decisions, the decisions will be made without you.