ICUF President Dr. Ed Moore Shares Findings on Access to Online Education in Florida

As President of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) and as a member of the Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC), Dr. Ed Moore has a keen interest in expanding access to postsecondary education in the state.

The Council has established a goal for 55% of the state’s citizens to have a high-quality certificate or degree by 2025.  In service of this goal, Dr. Moore recently announced the increase in ICUF schools’ fully online degree and certificate programs.  Twenty of the 30 ICUF institutions offer nearly 600 of these programs.  More than 1/5, or 34,000, of ICUF students are enrolled in these online programs.

Dr. Moore says, “By creating more options online for non-traditional students, ICUF is pursuing innovations that better fit the needs of Florida’s students who are at the center of expanding Florida’s economy and creating a more robust workforce.”

Clearly, the present and future of higher education in Florida and elsewhere is unbound by the traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom.  Digital learning, distance learning, virtual classrooms…Florida will be at the forefront of these initiatives.

However, a key component of a multi-pronged approach to distance learning concerns accessibility: Is a sufficient internet connection available?  The Federal Communications Commission has noted that the minimum internet access speed of 25 MBPS (million bits per second) for downloading and three MBPS for uploading is necessary for residential access to distance learning programs. That speed is currently only available through a fixed-line connection to the Internet until there are technology advances in the future. Based on this standard, nearly 700,000 Floridians do not currently have sufficient access to distance learning programs.

Dr. Moore presented these findings at a recent HECC meeting. As he says, “You cannot get ahead if you cannot get online.”  Lack of access to broadband in Florida and elsewhere is correlated with lower high school graduation rates and degree attainment, as well as lower per capita income and job growth. Increasing broadband access to Florida’s rural counties in particular would allow their citizens to take advantage of the extensive online education offerings in the state.

Dr. Moore and the Council hope to explore this challenge further and make recommendations to address it, meeting with companies that provide broadband access and infrastructure and exploring newer technologies. As Henry Flagler built Florida’s railroads at the turn of the 20th century, Florida’s digital infrastructure can fuel the state’s success in this century.

Those interested in ICUF’s online programs can visit http://www.icuf.org/institutions/distance-learning-program-search/ and search by school, program name, and level of degree.