President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2017
Senate Passes College Competitiveness Act
Legislation Re-Establishes Statewide Coordinating Board, Clarifies Mission of Community Colleges, Strengthens 2+2 College-To-University Programs
The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 374, the College Competitiveness Act of 2017, by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange). The legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) 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).
“Each component of our education system provides a unique and valuable experience for our students as they learn the skills needed for a successful career,” said Senator Hukill. “This legislation seeks to further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission – on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state.”
“This legislation will strengthen and expand college and university partnerships, so the next generation of Floridians can benefit from our excellent 2+2 program,” said Senator Galvano. “The bill also clarifies the process for colleges to apply for new bachelor degree programs to ensure colleges can appropriately respond to the workforce needs of their communities.”
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 school district technical centers.
“Florida’s 2+2 College-to-University program has earned a national reputation as a model for success in higher education. With a distinct mission, separate from the role of our K-12 and state university systems, Florida’s community colleges are vital to Florida’s K-20 public education system,” said President Negron. “Re-establishing a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System will ensure this critical component of our state’s education and economic development infrastructure has the dedicated focus needed to continue to meet the needs of a growing economy.”
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.
Senate Bill 374 was amended today to include additional components of the Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Agenda (Senate Bill 2), which passed the Senate during the first week of the 2017 Legislative Session.