Senate bill seeks to refine mission of Florida community college system
A new bill aimed at refining Florida's sprawling community college system would refocus the two-year mission of state colleges, the primary access point to higher education for the majority of degree-seeking Floridians.
Filed on Thursday by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, the bill adds another plank to the Florida Senate's ambitious higher education agenda for the coming Legislative session.
The bill would underscore the role of community colleges: providing a lower-level education and awarding associate degrees and certificates that either transfer to universities or prepare students for the workforce.
Expanding bachelor degree programs would be discouraged via a cap on upper-level student enrollment. Current programs would not change, and current bachelor students wouldn't be affected.
The bill would expand "2+2 partnerships," the method through which state college students filter into state universities after completing certain requirements.
Every state college would have to quickly implement at least one pathway agreement, which ideally get students to graduation day on a compressed timeline while saving money. The University of South Florida's FUSE partnership with local state colleges is a model. It guarantees a seamless transition to USF upon completion of certain degree programs at select state colleges.
To streamline the system, the bill would also take steps to avoid duplicating programs among state universities, state colleges and technical centers. And it would reinstate an independent statewide coordinating board to oversee the local boards of trustees systemwide.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, co-sponsored the College Competitiveness Act of 2017. It joins a parcel of other higher education bills spearheaded by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
For Floridians seeking a postsecondary education, state colleges remain a crucial entryway. About 65 percent of high school graduates begin at a state college. For minority students, that number is even higher.
"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, with a renewed commitment to access and dedication to its primary 2+2 mission, and on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials, as fundamental priorities," Sen. Hukill said in a news release.