Colleges say lawmakers left them poorly positioned to handle coronavirus impacts
Jim Murdaugh, Tallahassee Community College President.

Murdaugh says lawmakers didn't give colleges enough money and left them with bills.

The novel coronavirus pandemic is stressing Florida colleges and students.

That’s the message the State Board of Education heard Wednesday from Jim Murdaugh, President of Tallahassee Community College and Chair of the Council of Presidents for the Florida College System.

Murdaugh says unlike university students, college students don’t live in dorms. They have to work and pay rent and buy food. Like some K-12 students, food insecurity is also an issue for some college students. So is mental health and housing. 

“Our food pantry at our college, for example, is completely wiped out,” he said. “And if you think about the logistics of trying to get food to students who can’t come to campus anymore, then it becomes a real challenge for us all.”

Murdaugh says the Legislative Session did not position colleges well to meet the challenge posed by COVID-19. He says the state’s colleges received only $22.9 million from lawmakers to raise base funding. 

“That’s not an insignificant number, but when you do the simple math to try to divide $22.9 million across 28 colleges, I think you can see that’s not much of an improvement,” he said.

Murdaugh says lawmakers also didn’t provide colleges with funding for PECO, public education capital outlay, projects. They requested $37.8 million for repairs and renovations and $28 million for priority projects.

Colleges also failed to receive $16.5 million for dual enrollment. The Last Mile Completion Program, a new program that would provide tuition assistance for students who are no longer enrolled in college and are within 12 or fewer credit hours from completing their first degree, didn’t get the $1.5 million from lawmakers colleges were asking for.

Murdaugh says instead colleges are on the hook for some bills. He says they asked for $18.6 million to replenish the risk management consortium because deductibles from hurricanes Irma, Michael and Matthew severely strained their budgets. He adds that they also owe $18.7 million to the Florida Retirement System.

The college president ended his presentation on a high note. April is community college month.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • Sick and tired of elites complaining

    April 2, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Move money from utilities to the other categories. There are expenses that go down when no students are on campus, but we don’t hear about those… and if your professors are not teaching online, furlough them… save their salary and retirement contributions… better yet, do what the President of the USA does and the presidents of these colleges should forgo their salaries and FRS credit to save money first.

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