US News Positions Florida on No 1 Rank for Education

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Florida has been ranked as the top state for education for the second consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report, an achievement largely driven by its strong performance in higher education, while its K-12 system played a less significant role in this recognition.

According to the outlet, Florida’s standing is “largely fuelled by several stellar metrics in higher education, and less so by Florida’s still fairly strong performance in the pre-kindergarten- through-12th-grade arena.”

This recognition comes after a period of controversial changes in the state’s higher education system during the last two legislative sessions. Gov. Ron DeSantis and lawmakers have banned diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on campuses, approved measures regulating campus restrooms based on gender, removed sociology from a required courses list, and weakened tenure protections for faculty, among other changes.

In a separate U.S. News ranking, Florida also secured the No. 1 spot for higher education alone for the eighth year in a row. Students at the state’s colleges and universities had the nation’s second-highest graduation rates and paid the lowest average in-state tuition and fees, the organization said.

Many of Florida’s public universities have been climbing in the rankings in recent years, with the University of Florida being recognized as one of 10 public “new Ivies” by Forbes last week, despite dipping to No. 6 in the U.S. News rankings among public universities after being named a Top 5 school two years in a row.

State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues praised the state’s prioritization of higher education and the increased funding of $1 billion for the State University System last year. However, Meera Sitharam, chairperson of the University of Florida’s faculty union, expressed concerns that the metrics do not capture everything, and the recent climate around higher education in the state could erode the quality of education students receive, particularly due to potential threats to academic freedom.

Jessica Magnani, chairperson of the St. Petersburg College Faculty union, acknowledged the ranking as a testament to the work of educators across the state but highlighted the disparity between salaries for teachers and faculty, which have not kept up with the rise in rankings or the cost of living, with starting salaries for full-time faculty roles at St. Petersburg College being $39,000.

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