Recent news out of Tallahassee found that Volusia’s venerated Stetson University is the only local private institution that wasn’t tapped for a public handout in Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget.
Look, I get it.
Daytona State College is a publicly funded, community-based school that offers a lot of opportunities for local kids.
In my view, we need more regional state colleges and technical schools that provide the advanced training and trade skills that Florida’s service-based economy desperately needs.
And the evidence is increasingly clear that Bethune-Cookman University has been financially fleeced by a combination of greed and mismanagement – and they desperately need a cash infusion as they struggle to right the ship.
But why would the State of Florida throw $3-million taxpayer dollars at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University?
Like everything else at ERAU – from the Taj Mahal administration building to a two-hole privy – the recipient of public funds is named after some rich guy.
In this case, the “Gaetz Aerospace Institute” – a concurrent-enrollment program for high school students – is named in honor of political hack and former Florida Senator Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who co-founded VITAS Healthcare Corp.
The fact is, with a published net worth topping $25-million, Mr. Gaetz could fund the program single-handedly.
And since it bears his name, he damn well should.
I’m almost positive that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Otherwise, we would call it the “Tax Weary Floridian’s Aerospace Institute.”
But in typical fashion, the university relies on the tax-strapped citizens of Florida to pony-up $3-million.
In my view, rather than do the heavy-lifting of building an endowment and partnering with aerospace industry leaders for research and programmatic funding – ERAU continues to follow the popular modus operandi of its esteemed leader – Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini – the uber-wealthy president of mega-developer ICI Homes and undisputed High Panjandrum of Political Power – to repeatedly demand public funds to support the operations and infrastructure of a private enterprise.
When you factor in the millions in tax dollars ERAU has wrung from federal, state and local coffers for the “Micaplex” and other internal projects – not to mention Volusia County’s sale of public land to the private university for half its appraised value – and you get the idea that the Board of Trustees are far more interested in using Mr. Hosseini’s considerable clout to loot the public treasury, rather than encourage lasting private investment in our Harvard of the Sky.
Perhaps the powers that be at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University should take a lesson from Stetson University – and other private institutions of higher learning who are committed to institutional self-sufficiency.
In my view, that requires strategic vision – and a willingness to embrace transparency and accountability – virtues that are sorely lacking in ERAU’s current leadership.