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President Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, 2017

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


Excellence in Higher Education Legislation Passes Final Senate Committee

Senate Bill 2 available for consideration on the Senate Floor during the first week of Session

Tallahassee —

Senate Bill 2, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act, and Senate Bill 4, Faculty Recruitment, both sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), were merged today and passed as a package through the Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). Having passed all three committees of reference, Senate Bill 2 is available for consideration on the Senate floor during the first week of the 2017 Legislative Session, which begins on March 7.

 

“Students, parents, and taxpayers who support our State University System receive the best return on their investment when Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “This legislation will help to ease financial barriers that impede on-time graduation and delay students entering their chosen careers. Over time, these key policy enhancements and targeted financial investments in faculty and infrastructure will enhance the national reputation of Florida’s State University System.”

 

“I am grateful for the input we received both before and during the committee process from students, parents, instructors, administrators and others,” said Senator Galvano. “Florida is a place where people of all educational, ethnic, and economic backgrounds can succeed in contributing to our diverse and growing economy. For many Floridians, our university system is the key to unlocking their future career path. This legislation will help keep our State University System nationally competitive, while both maintaining and improving the flexibility options that allow students to tailor their education to ensure that they can meet family and work obligations.”

 

Senate Bills 2 and 4 have been key companions in defining the Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Agenda for the 2017 Legislative Session. Senate Bill 2, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act, promotes on-time graduation by expanding student financial assistance and support, establishing tuition and fee incentives, streamlining 2+2 articulation, and strengthening mechanisms that keep colleges and universities accountable to Florida taxpayers. Senate Bill 4, Faculty Recruitment, expands policy and funding tools universities can leverage to recruit and retain the very best faculty, enhance professional and graduate schools, and improve aging infrastructure and research laboratories. By merging the components of both bills into one, Senate Bill 2 now represents a more complete package of tools available to help universities serve their students while elevating the prominence of their institutions.

 

SENATE BILL 2 – THE FLORIDA EXCELLENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION ACT

 

Expands Student Financial Assistance and Support

 

  • Reinstates Highest Bright Futures Scholarship Program Award (Florida Academic Scholar) to cover 100 percent of tuition and certain tuition-indexed fees, including the summer term, plus $300 for textbooks and college-related expenses during the fall and spring terms.
  • Expands the Benacquisto Scholar Program to provide awards for qualified out-of-state students, as funded in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), equal to the highest cost of resident student attendance at a state university. The student must physically reside in the community of the university he or she is attending.
  • Revises the 1st Generation Matching Grant Program to provide two to one (state to local match versus one to one), as funded in the GAA. 
  • Creates the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program to provide need-based scholarships to cover the cost of tuition and fees for farmworkers and the children of farmworkers to earn a workforce certificate or a college degree.

 

Establishes Tuition and Fee Incentives

 

The Legislature has authorized state universities to implement flexible tuition policies to assist students in accessing higher education in our state. To date, no state university has implemented a block tuition policy. 

 

  • Requires universities to implement a block tuition policy, which must specify an in-state block tuition rate and an out-of-state block tuition rate for full-time undergraduate students. The university board of trustees and the Board of Governors must publicly approve the block tuition policy in time for implementation by no later than the Fall 2018 semester.

 

Streamlines 2+2 Articulation

 

  • Establishes the 2+2 targeted pathway program to strengthen Florida’s 2+2 system of articulation and improve student retention and on-time graduation in four years with a baccalaureate degree.
  • Requires each community college to execute at least one 2+2 targeted pathway articulation agreement by the 2018-19 academic year. The articulation agreement must provide students who meet specified requirements guaranteed access to the state university and baccalaureate degree program in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
  • Requires district school boards to notify students and parents with accurate and timely information about how college credits generated in high school will apply towards a college degree. 

 

Strengthens Mechanisms That Keep Colleges and Universities Accountable To Florida Taxpayers

 

Incentivizes full-time student graduation in four years by focusing institutional efforts on initiatives that reduce student time to, and costs of, on-time degree completion.

 

  • Upgrades State University System (SUS) Performance Metrics in Preeminence and Performance Funding programs: 
    • Tightens graduation rate expectations to four-year (from six-year) for a baccalaureate degree. (Note: Universities are only evaluated based on the graduation rates of students who are enrolled full-time, beginning in the fall semester, and who have not previously enrolled.)
    • Repeals preeminent university authority for a six-credit set of “unique courses” that consume time and money for non-transferable credit.

 

  • Upgrades Florida College System (FCS) Performance Metrics in Distinguished College and Performance Funding programs:
    • Tightens degree (associate and bachelor) graduation rate metrics to 100 percent (versus 150 percent) of normal-time completion. (Note: Colleges are only evaluated based on the graduation rates of students who are enrolled full-time, beginning in the fall semester, and who have not previously enrolled.)
    • Adds a college affordability metric, which must be adopted by the State Board of Education.
    • Specifies the job placement metric must be based on wage thresholds that reflect the added value of the applicable certificate or degree.

 

Expands and Enhances Policy and Funding Tools State Universities can Leverage to Recruit and Retain the Very Best Faculty

 

  • Establishes a World Class Faculty Scholar Program to fund university efforts to recruit, recognize, and retain star faculty and teams, as funded in the GAA.  
  • Establishes a University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program to promote quality and excellence in university professional school and graduate study outcomes in high-impact fields of medicine, law, and business, as funded in the GAA.
  • Links education to job opportunities by expanding university responsibility to identify internship opportunities for students to benefit from industry experts and mentors, earn industry certifications, and become employed in high-demand fields of unmet need.