New bills seek to expand access, performance at Florida's public institutions
- Two new proposals for public higher education in Florida may reshape standards of affordability, time to completion and hiring practices for standout faculty.
- The Bradenton Herald reports that SB2 and SB4 have quickly moved through the state’s Senate Education Committee, and are likely to receive support from sub-groups on higher education and appropriations. The bills seek to increase support for state-funded scholarship programs and enhancements to articulation agreements between two- and four-year institutions. They also emphasize support for state institutions seeking and hiring standout faculty in high-impact disciplines.
- Some legislators are concerned that the new rules could hinder open access schools by reducing funding for institutions which specialize in serving under-resourced and under-prepared students, such as community colleges and Florida A&M University, the state’s flagship historically black institution.
Most higher education reform policies calling for performance-based funding (which Florida already uses for higher ed appropriations) reward institutions with sound foundations in enrollment and funding, while placing smaller institutions at a disadvantage. These schools already receive first consideration from high achieving students, donors and legislative agenda, so it is up to leaders from smaller or specialized mission schools to fit their narrative into the agenda which already attracts much of the attention in the state.
Public education executives must continue to make the cases of social mobility, economic impact and development in relation to tax revenues, and demonstrate how education limits spending on healthcare and public subsidy programs. They may not yield short-term dividends, but ensuring educational access helps to guarantee a state gains with its citizens living healthier, wealthier and more productive lives.