A bill to limit baccalaureate offerings for Florida’s 28 state community colleges sailed through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education on Wednesday.
SB 374, sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, would create a new governing system for Florida’s community colleges. The proposal would also reinstate the Florida State Board of Community Colleges to oversee community colleges. The State Board of Education, which governs over Florida’s K-12 education system, currently handles community college affairs.
the bill also aims to strengthen Florida’s 2 + 2 program, which allows students receive their associates degrees from community college and finish out school at state universities.
Colleges would be required to implement a minimum of one 2 + 2 pathway agreement with at least one state university no later than the 2018 academic year.
The 2 +2 program has been widely popular in Florida, offering students the opportunity to receive degrees from larger schools, but some students still opt to continue on well beyond two years at community colleges and instead receive their baccalaureate degrees there as well.
SB 374 aims to put a stop to that practice, requiring state community colleges to meet workforce requirements as well as forbidding them from offering liberal arts degrees. If passed, no more than eight percent of students could pursue baccalaureate degrees at community colleges.
Some colleges would be allowed to exceed that cap, but only if they met certain conditions and got special permission from the legislature.
Opponents of the bill argued it was merely adding a layer of bureaucracy onto the community college program while others said it would unfairly disadvantage older students who may head to community colleges to get their four year degrees.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who cosponsored the bill, said the bill was key to making sure community colleges were putting students to work where it’s needed the most.
"We don't want a situation where community colleges are trying to be universities," said Galvano.
The bill is part of Senate President Joe Negron’s higher education overhaul moving through the Senate this year.
Negron said the legislation would help “elevate” the reputation of Florida’s community college system.
A new governing board, he said, is what Florida needs for community colleges to truly thrive.
“With this distinct mission, separate from the role of our K-12 and state university systems, our nationally-recognized community colleges deserve their own coordinating board to advocate for the success of the system,” he said.