Florida bill would shake up state's college system
- A bill introduced in the Florida legislature seeks to tie performance-based funding allocations to the number of full-time enrollees, in addition to a number of other changes proposed. Presidents and other state education advocates have decried this proposal with being out of touch with the population, reports WUFT.org. At Florida State College in Jacksonville, for instance, the average student is 28 years old and juggling many life situations while attending school, which may lead to volleying back and forth between full-time and part-time status from one semester to the next.
- The bill seeks to form a new State Board of Community Colleges to oversee all community colleges, and would establish “2+2” pathway programs that directly connect community college graduates with bachelor's programs at four-year universities.
- The bill also places restrictions on the use of state money for non-academic expenditures, specifically targeting direct service organizations, to "ensure college employees are doing their jobs properly," according to the article.
Florida joins a growing number of states looking to exert more power over how public colleges spend state funds. There is a mounting perception that administrative bloat and waste unnecessarily inflate higher education costs, a perception that is furthered by the hefty salaries of top higher ed officials, who often earn more than governors and legislators.
Increasingly lawmakers are looking to connect financing to various performance measures, and to restrict funding to specifically address those targets. Missouri recently approved a similar policy that ties 10% of state education money to certain institutional outcomes and redirects the money, when goals aren’t met, to student academic support.
However, it is important for legislators to consider in their performance proposals the changing nature of today's student. Nationwide, almost 8 million learners are part-time students, and their ranks are growing according to education data. Attending college full time is a luxury that fewer students can afford. Orienting college funding, and the college experience, around full-time students misses the mark and can only hurt educational outcomes. Already, across the board, institutions don’t do a very good job of holding onto part-time students; the U.S. retention rate for part-time college enrollees is less than 50%.