Florida’s 28 public colleges are the economic engine fueling our state’s workforce talent pipeline.
The Florida College System (FCS) remains the top system in the United States, and the No. 1 provider of workforce education and training industries including health care, law enforcement and manufacturing.
Beyond the economic benefits, the FCS provides many Floridians an improved quality of life and employment opportunities through transformative education.
With 95% of graduates remaining in the Sunshine State to work or continue their education, the training our institutions provide remains essential to supporting businesses in our communities and the overall prosperity of our economy.
As the 2021-22 Chair of the FCS Council of Presidents — which is comprised of leadership from each of Florida’s 28 colleges — I am proud to have worked with my fellow Council members and our Policy and Advocacy Chair, St. Petersburg College President Tonjua Williams, to have identified three legislative priorities focused on accelerating our state colleges in the coming year, as well as supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ goal of Florida becoming No. 1 in workforce development by 2030.
The FCS is in alignment with the Governor and the state’s workforce development priorities to accelerate the provision of quality workforce education programs and services and support other key priorities like dual enrollment and transfer student articulation.
However, this requires investment in the Florida College System Program Fund.
Increased investment in the Program Fund will make it possible for every college to effectively implement HB 1507 and expand nursing and additional health care programs in response to the demand for quality employees in high-need medical support occupations and supply job-ready employees in growing areas such as cybersecurity, drone manufacturing and other advanced technologies.
Another vital funding stream that cannot be overlooked is the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO), which provides funding for infrastructure improvements, including maintenance and repairs to ensure the learning environments for all students are optimal and safe.
Our oldest colleges in the FCS are 88 years old, many with facilities in need of renovations including new classroom and lab space to meet industry advances and capacity in the critical and evolving areas of law enforcement and other first responder professions.
The need for updated facilities has never been greater as our next generation of nurses, respiratory therapists and first responders will continue to serve as front-line heroes, aiding future disaster and other recovery efforts.
Finally, performance funding for student success and industry certification incentives are imperative for Florida’s colleges to continue providing excellence in instruction, support services, student completion, and high-skill, high-wage employment.
A 2019 Florida TaxWatch report stated that Florida public colleges provide the state more than $26 billion in economic impact and a return on investment of $15.42 for every $1 invested.
Florida College System graduates and their families benefit from a 12% return on their investment thanks to the education from state institutions, where tuitions remain a fraction of the cost of universities and private schools, and graduation results in lifetime earnings that are more than $838,000 greater with their degrees.
When we look at these numbers it is easy to justify the need for performance funding for student success and industry certification incentives. All students, wherever they reside in our state, deserve excellence and excellence requires ongoing investment and continuous improvement.
The FCS Council of Presidents looks forward to working with the state’s elected leaders during the upcoming legislative session to pass meaningful legislation benefiting Florida’s students and economy and supporting the Governor’s goal of becoming the leader in workforce development by 2030.
Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti is president of Polk State College and chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents. The Council of Presidents proudly provides strategic leadership to ensure that the door of higher education not only remains open but also leads to a path of completion and meaningful employment, advancing the priorities of the Florida Colleges System and thereby meeting the needs of the citizens of this state.