Florida Legislature, Opening Session


Legislative Update

February 10, 2017

legislative update
Higher Education was at center stage this week in Senate interim committee meetings.
The Legislature officially convenes the 2017 Legislative Session on Tuesday, March 7th.

On Monday, February 6, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 374 which has been dubbed
the “College Competitiveness Act”
by Senate leaders. According to Senate President
Joe Negron’s press release, “Senate Bill 374 reinstates a statewide coordinating board for
the Florida Community College System, tightens the community college bachelor 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.”

Clearly, SB 374, deemphasizes four-year programs at current state colleges. The bill would
remove state colleges from the oversight of the State Board of Education and put them under
a new State Board of Community Colleges. The bill will make 4-year baccalaureate degree programs
a “secondary” mission of the colleges. The 254-page bill does not yet have a House companion bill.

Then on Wednesday, February 8, the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted
5-1 to support CS/SB 2 which has been titled the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act
of 2017.” UFF has serious concerns as did several senators about possible unintended consequences
of this legislation. They are as follows:

Metrics dealing with graduation rates will reduce access and not provide the support needed for
eventual success.
In 2013, SB 1720 made remediation courses optional at the college level. However,
“traditional students who decided not to take developmental or remedial courses, after
being advised to do so, were more likely to fail college-level or gateway courses.” Further,
“students who start credit-bearing courses without adequate preparation face long odds of
graduating” (Inside Higher Ed, 2015). Therefore, the addition of metrics that deal with graduation
rates may hinder student access to higher education if colleges have to push through students to
meet those metrics.

  • Students without the necessary remediation course will have to retake courses which
    will lead to additional time and costs for the student.
  • The need to redo courses lowers retention rates and increases the time of completion,
    having a negative impact on these metrics.
Changing the graduation rates from 6 years to 4 years for universities will also reduce
access for lower-income, minority and non-traditional students.
The reduction of time for
graduation will force universities to accept only those students who can complete the program
in four years. This “cherry picking” will adversely impact the goal of increased access for
diverse populations. Universities have already increased requirements for SAT and ACT scores,
tests that are known to disadvantage diverse populations. According to an Inside Higher Ed
article from 2015, “SAT scores showed continued patterns in which white and Asian students, on
average, receive higher scores than do black and Latino students. And, as has been the case for
years, students from wealthier families score better than do those from disadvantaged families.”

  • Students at urban and regional universities tend to take longer to graduate due to
    family concerns, the need to work to pay for their education, and a host of other reasons.
Block Tuition could negatively impact lower-income, minority and non-traditional students.
Many students should only take 9 or 12 credit hours to be successful because of work,
family and other pressures. Forcing students to pay for 15 hours will adversely affect
this population. Additionally, concern was expressed at the meeting by Senator Jeff Clemens
(D, Lake Worth) about the impact to higher education funding as no analyses have been made.
His effort to amend the bill to add such an analysis was defeated.

Furthermore, UFF believes that changes to the performance funding metrics dealing with
graduation rates, excess hours provisions, and changes to the percent-of-normal-time completion
rate may limit access to higher education for lower-income, minority and
non-traditional students.



SB 622 by Senator Greg Steube

Senator Steube has broken down his overall guns legislation into multiple bills. SB 622 is
legislation to allow carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses. The
bill is deceptively titled and at first glance appears to only impact athletic events. But
it removes college and university facilities from the list where guns are not permitted.


Partial fee waivers for graduate assistants are scheduled to be part of Governor Scott’s
college tuition/fees package. UFF will be seeking to address specific fees for waiver.


PCB HHS 17-01 by the House Health and Human Services Committee has been filed and will be
reporting in more detail next week.


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