Legislation Re-Establishes Statewide Coordinating Board, Clarifies Mission
of Community Colleges, Strengthens 2+2 College-To-University Programs
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, chaired by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), today unanimously passed Senate Bill 374, the College Competitiveness Act of 2017, by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange). The legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Galvano and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), is a component of the Florida Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education agenda advocated by Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart).
“This legislation will elevate the visibility of our nationally-recognized Florida Community College System as an integral partner in Florida’s system of higher education,” said Senator Hukill. “A renewed commitment to access and dedication to the primary 2+2 mission, and on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials, will ensure we help students save time and money by graduating on-time.”
“I am grateful for the feedback provided by the Department of Education and the Florida College System as the bill moves through the legislative process. We have worked to incorporate their recommendations and look forward to continuing that dialogue as we move forward,” said Senator Galvano, who presented the bill during today’s committee meeting. “Clarifying the process for colleges to apply for new bachelor degree programs and implementing new transparency measures will ensure colleges can appropriately respond to the workforce needs of their communities in a timely manner.”
Senate Bill 374, reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System, tightens the community college bachelor degree approval process, expands 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, and clarifies responsibilities within Florida’s taxpayer-funded K-20 education system to maximize programmatic offerings and resources already available at state universities, community colleges, and technical centers.
“Community colleges are vital to Florida’s K-20 public education system. This legislation seeks to further elevate Florida’s community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission,” said President Negron. “With this distinct mission, separate from the role of our K-12 and state university systems, our nationally-recognized community colleges deserve their own coordinating board to advocate for the success of the system.”
“On-time completion of associate degree and workforce programs is critical to our economy. This legislation promotes private sector economic development and safeguards taxpayer dollars by making certain we are being strategic in the way we approach higher education in our state,” said Leader Simpson. “Colleges will have the opportunity to address new local workforce needs in a timely manner. Additionally, with stronger and more streamlined 2 + 2 agreements, this legislation will enable students to transition seamlessly from a local community college to a state university where they can take advantage of existing programs.”
Reinstates Statewide Coordinating Board
Senate Bill 374 reinstates the State Board of Community Colleges as the coordinating board of the Florida Community College System, independent of the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors of the State University System, to oversee the local community college boards of trustees. The bill requires the State Board of Community Colleges to appoint a Chancellor to the board, and transfers personnel, budget, and other appropriate functions from the State Board of Education to the State Board of Community Colleges.
Clarifies Missions of Community Colleges and School District Workforce Programs
Senate Bill 374 clarifies that providing lower-level undergraduate instruction and awarding Associate in Arts degrees, which transfer to a state university, are responsibilities under the primary mission of community colleges. Additionally, responsibilities under the primary mission of community colleges are to prepare students directly for careers requiring less than bachelor degrees, by awarding Associate in Science degrees, Associate in Applied Science degrees, and nationally recognized industry certifications, which help students enter the workforce prepared for success.
Offering upper-level instruction and awarding bachelor degrees are responsibilities under the secondary mission of community colleges. To support this delineation in mission, the bill establishes a cap on the planned growth in upper-level undergraduate enrollment at each college and clarifies the process by which colleges can apply to offer new four year programs, thereby focusing attention and resources on excellence in meeting primary mission responsibilities. The provisions of the bill do not terminate any existing programs and no students currently enrolled in community college bachelor degree programs will be impacted by the enrollment cap. The legislation requires colleges to provide a “notification of interest” when applying for new bachelor degree programs as a way to increase transparency in the program approval process.
The legislation further clarifies the mission of technical centers is to promote advances and innovations in specific workforce preparation and economic development. The public technical center learning environment prepares its students to meet the needs of the local community through specific and specialized technical career-based training; thus promoting diversity and choices within the public technical education community, and while increasing a quicker turnaround in economic investments as these students are more likely to immediately enter the workforce. The bill clarifies technical centers governed by local school boards may not offer college credit courses, college credit certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor degrees.
Expands 2+2 College-To-University Partnerships
Senate Bill 374 expands successful 2+2 college-to-university programs, such as DirectConnect partnerships with the University of Central Florida and FUSE partnerships with the University of South Florida, by requiring every college to implement, by no later than the 2018 academic year, a minimum of one 2+2 pathway agreement with at least one state university partner. The 2+2 pathway agreement guarantees the college’s Associate in Arts degree graduates, who meet specific requirements, admission to the university partnered with that community college.