The Senate Committee on Education Monday passed Senate Bill 374, the College Competitiveness Act of 2017, sponsored by Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange and co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Bill Galvano of Bradenton, and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson of Trilby.
Senate Bill 374 is a component of the Florida Excellence in Higher Education agenda advocated by Senate President Joe Negron.
“Florida’s 2+2 college-to-university partnership program has earned a national reputation as a successful model for state systems of higher education,” said Negron. “The goal of this legislation is to further elevate Florida’s community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission.”
“As a former student and teacher, I recognize each component of our education system can provide a unique and valuable experience for our students as they learn the skills needed for a successful career,” Hukill said. “A statewide coordinating board will provide the dedicated focus needed to keep our community colleges nationally competitive.”
Senate Bill 374, reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System, tightens the community college bachelor’s degree approval process, expands 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, and clarifies responsibilities within Florida’s taxpayer-funded K-20 education system to avoid wasteful duplication of programs offered by state universities, community colleges and technical centers.
“Florida’s 2+2 program was an important part of my college experience as I worked to complete my associate degree at Manatee Community College before transferring to the University of Florida,” Galvano said. “This legislation will strengthen and expand college and university partnerships, so the next generation of Floridians can benefit from our excellent 2+2 program.”
“On-time completion of associate degrees and workforce programs are critical to our economy,” said Simpson. “Learning these valuable skills enables students to graduate with the tools they need to begin a career in their community, or to obtain a degree that makes it easy to transfer to one of our outstanding state universities.”
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 community college, 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 baccalaureate degree programs will be impacted by the enrollment cap.
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.