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September 14, 2005

Jennifer Fennell or
Cheryl Etters (850) 245-0413

Task Force Meets to Improve Access to Higher Education in Florida
Preliminary research presented to task force members

ORLANDO — At the third meeting of the Access Task Force, education leaders from across the state will meet today in Orlando to discuss strategies for improving access to higher education, increasing degree completion rates and better preparing graduates to meet Florida's need for a highly qualified, trained workforce.

While current job trends in Florida continue to call for high school graduates, and many jobs will require bachelor degree graduates in targeted areas, data shows that nearly all of the state's fastest growing fields require some level of postsecondary education below a bachelor degree, such as nursing and information technology.

"The Access Task Force is focusing its efforts on a coordinated approach to aligning resources and making policy decisions that address the immediate and long-term needs of Florida business and education leaders," said Florida State Board of Education Chair Phil Handy. "Closing the gap between supply and demand for trained workers will change the direction of Florida's economy."

To assist in this endeavor, the Access Task Force recently retained the services of MGT of America, Inc., a research consulting firm. Preliminary research conducted by MGT presented today will address barriers to access, comparisons to access in selected states and proposed recommendations for increasing access. Presentation materials will be posted at following today's meeting.

Created in June, the newly established task force is a joint effort between the Florida State Board of Education and the Florida Board of Governors. Members represent public and private schools, colleges and universities. This effort is the first major interaction of the two constitutional boards since the creation of the State Board of Education in 1998 and the subsequent creation of the Board of Governors in 2002. The task force's purpose is to explore, consider and recommend policies for meeting the growing demand for access to quality higher education in Florida by assessing current and expected capacity of public and private delivery system and institutions. It is anticipated any policy changes or recommendations will be made in time for consideration by the 2006 Florida Legislature. The next Access Task Force meeting will be held October 17, 2005, at Florida Atlantic University's campus in Davie, Florida.