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CEOs offer varying opinions on higher education investments

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This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: What investments would you like to see made locally for higher education? Where do our higher education institutions excel? Fall short?

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To create a competitive workforce, not only nationally, but internationally, I would like to see private-public partnerships developed between government and companies so that there is 100 percent educational funding available from kindergarten through an Associate’s degree (two years of community college). In the United States, access to higher education is remarkable, but we need to demand that there be a pathway from education to work. By supporting internships, residency, and fellowship programs between educational institutions and companies, employers will have access to a more ready, willing, and qualified workforce.

John Benz, president, CEO, Community Care Plan

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I believe that we need to re-evaluate our entire education system. We have colleges and universities which are totally overwhelmed by the massive amounts of students enrolled in their institutions. I would want to see trade schools, which train young people in many areas in which we lack talented workers. These young people could make a very good living in the future and not have the burden of having to attend a four-year university. If we adopted such a program, we could have fewer students at the college level and have better-qualified students and professors. This would ensure higher wages in the future for all college graduates.

Armando Caceres, CEO, founder, All Florida Paper

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We are lucky to have such high-caliber institutions not only in our state, but in our own backyard. I applaud that many have recognized the need for specialization in logistics and international business. E-commerce will continue to grow in popularity and will be a great field for qualified graduates. Our universities are keeping pace.

Ralph De La Rosa, president, CEO, Imperial Freight

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Higher education provides students with a well-rounded base of knowledge, but for technical fields we need more developed co-op programs.

Jalal Farooq, principal, Al-Farooq Corporation

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Higher education is far more than an expenditure. It is an investment in human capital, and as a result, it provides some of the highest return on investment to society. Higher education continues to be our most legitimate means for upward social mobility, and communities that invest in education benefit from more prosperous economies and stronger social cohesion. We are at the threshold of a revolution in education, thanks to unprecedented technological advances in areas such interactive online education, simulation, and mixed/virtual reality, all of which improve learning outcomes. The potential for higher education to reach more people with higher quality education is huge if we make the right investments in these innovations. A strategic priority for the University of Miami is to lead the educational revolution of the 21st century.

Dr. Julio Frenk, president, University of Miami

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The world comes to the U.S. for higher education. We need more higher education institutions for specialized studies. I would love to see South Florida become more involved in the tech and medical communities. The future is in Artificial Intelligence and biotech and medical biotech research. In the ’60s and ’70s, the focus was more on chemistry with the growth of pharmaceuticals, but now we are seeing a rapid expansion in the areas of stem cell and chromosomal research as well as nanotech. We can easily bring in 300,000 to 500,000 biotech jobs to the area if we had the factories and finances to make South Florida a one-stop shop for these sectors.

Kaizad Hansotia, founder, CEO, Gurkha Cigars

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According to U.S. News & World Report, for the past two years Florida has been ranked as the best in the nation for higher education, but we need to focus on keeping tuition fees low, increase funding to the Bright Futures scholarship program, and increase graduation rates at both two- and four-year institutions.

Javier Holtz, chairman, CEO, Marquis Bank

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Steady job creation — driven by an educated workforce — is paramount to the continued growth of South Florida. To the extent higher education can align with industries to ensure students graduate with real world skills that are fundamental for 21st century jobs, the quality of life for all residents in the region will be improved. Having higher education focus on computer literacy, financial modeling, entrepreneurship, creative thinking and interpersonal skills will continue to develop talent that will bolster local companies.

Camilo Miguel Jr., founder, CEO, Mast Capital

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In today’s economy, it is difficult for one to survive without a college degree. A college education affords a family/individual the opportunity to earn a salary that they can live on more comfortably (it is still a struggle for some with a college degree). Higher education should be accessible and affordable to anyone who wants to work hard enough to achieve it. I would encourage the government to invest more in scholarship or interest-free loans for education.

Deborah Spiegelman, CEO, Miami Children’s Museum

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South Florida should be proud of its higher education institutions, and we shouldn’t take for granted the hundreds of thousands of students who choose South Florida for their educational needs. As business leaders, we know that having a quality talent pool is critical to attracting and retaining the best and the brightest right here in our own backyard, as well as critical to attracting business and headquarters to our area. I do believe there’s a shared responsibility between the business community and our educational institutions to work harder than ever to facilitate the transition of students from our local universities into career opportunities that keep them in the state.

Steve Upshaw, CEO, Cross Country Home Services

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Meet the new members of our CEO Roundtable

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