Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: SPC meeting higher education challenges

Retention rates at community colleges have never been something to brag about. By design, the schools' relaxed admission standards mean almost anyone can start. But many students don't stay, in part because they don't get enough personal attention. Bill Law is trying to change that at St. Petersburg College, and he looks to be off to a good start. Three years into his job as president, Law is moving what was Florida's first community college to offer four-year degrees toward its maximum potential.

Law inherited a college that for three decades had been overseen by one dynamic personality, Carl Kuttler. But public higher education is not the industry it used to be — with accountability measures, distance learning demands and eroding public support. Law appears to be rising to the challenge.

He has shifted resources from administration to frontline jobs, including launching a bold student support initiative last year aimed at improving retention and success, particularly among underrepresented minority students. It shows great promise. This spring, among students needing remedial classes before beginning college level work, success rates (finishing classes with a C or higher) were up 7 percent overall, including up 13 percent among African-Americans and up 11 percent among Hispanics. Among traditional college students, the rates were up 9 percent, including 11 percent for African-Americans and 19 percent for Hispanics. Long term, that is the path to the greatest contribution SPC can make to the Tampa Bay region and its workforce: ensuring a far greater share of students who enter its doors actually earn a college degree.

Law has had some hiccups. Early in his tenure at SPC, the former Tallahassee Community College president failed to provide access to budget documents that are clearly public records. That has since been remedied. A much-anticipated new college building in St. Petersburg's Midtown neighborhood is stalled, first because the college mishandled a public meetings requirement on construction bids, and now because of challenges to the bidding procedure that Law changed and still defends. There also is a lawsuit filed by an unsuccessful candidate to become provost at the downtown St. Petersburg campus. That followed a gender discrimination complaint with federal officials by that applicant that Law told her current employer and references about. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rebuked Law for that, and Law says he regrets sending the letter.

Overall, though, Law has been a breath of fresh air to one of Pinellas County's most important institutions. State colleges serve a diverse student body, from traditional students fresh out of high school to unemployed middle-aged workers returning to school for retraining. Law has displayed a passion for serving each of those groups well and an openness to what that will mean in the changing landscape of higher education.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18