Southeast Florida roundup
Raising the bar: FAU institutes changes to help students achieve a degree
Florida Atlantic University is trying to more quickly move students toward a degree. In one move, the Boca Raton-based school is hiring 26 advisers to bring its student-adviser ratio down to 300:1 from 400:1 and expects advisers to be more “intrusive” — calling students who stray from their degree-completion tracks, for example.
Another new policy requires students to file a plan showing the schedule they will follow to earn their degrees.Freshmen who finish their first semester this month without a major must take a career-planning course to settle on one.
The changes came after the state imposed a $7-million funding penalty on FAU earlier this year for not meeting new performance standards. Two glaring shortcomings: On a scale of one to five, with a five the best, FAU got goose eggs for its six-year graduation rate of just 40%, which was 20 percentage points below the benchmark for earning even just one point. The school likewise failed to score for its student retention rate of 70%, which was 10 percentage points below the benchmark to earn one point.
Institutions that scored well on the new performance standards were rewarded with bonus dollars; the three schools that scored poorly, FAU, New College and the University of West Florida, had funding withheld.
The three can earn the money back — half this month and half in May — if they follow an improvement plan. Along with hiring more advisers and requiring the student plans, FAU is creating a general studies degree as an option for students who, after changing majors, have racked up more than 120 hours but still are short credits for any one major.Some 14% of FAU students fit that profile.
Provost Gary Perry hopes to see $3.5 million released to the university this month.
Meanwhile, a university-wide task force, headed by a new assistant provost for student success, has other strategies to boost student achievement.“Believe me, there’s more to come,” Perry says.
BELLE GLADE — Vegetable grower Knight Management agreed to sell its assets to Clewiston- based U.S. Sugar for $100 million, the Palm Beach Post reported.
BOCA RATON — In a joint venture with Boston’s Wheelock Street Capital, Crocker Partners reacquired the 277,390-sq.- ft. One Boca Place for $76.35 million. The deal brings Crocker’s Florida holdings to 5.2 million square feet and 8.4 million square feet in the Southeast U.S. and Texas. > Security system company Tyco Integrated Security plans to move into the small-business market nationally following the expiration of a noncompete agreement.
DELRAY BEACH — Jacksonville- based Stein Mart opens a store this month at a shopping center where a Trader Joe’s opened earlier this year.
FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward County opened its new, 8,000-foot, $719-million south runway at Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport. Meanwhile, county commissioners voted to raise the landing, gate and terminal fees that airlines pay, though the fees still will be below Miami’s. > Port Everglades this month opens its newly renovated, $24-million cruise terminal, which now has 50 check-in counters and two new passenger loading bridges to speed boarding and disembarking. Automotive retailer AutoNation acquired, for undisclosed terms, Barrier Motors’ Audi, Mercedes- Benz, Porsche and Volvo stores in the Seattle market. The stores’ annual revenue is $355 million. > Gambling company Genting/Resorts World says it will sail its 1,500-passenger Bimini SuperFast ferry from Port Everglades to its Bimini casino three weekdays a week, in addition to its Miami-based trips.
FORT PIERCE — St. Lucie County, working with a grant from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, built three artificial reefs north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, using concrete power poles donated by Florida Power & Light.
HOLLYWOOD — Thayer Lodging Group, the new owner of the 998-room Diplomat Resort & Spa, dropped Westin from the hotel name as it moves it under Hilton’s new luxury Curio brand. Thayer will spend $100 million on upgrades. It bought the resort from the United Association plumbers union for $535 million.
JUPITER — The Max Planck Florida Foundation received $2 million from the state to launch a neuroscience fellowship program for graduate and postgraduate researchers. > The 179- room Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place opened.
MIRAMAR — Riviera Point Development Group completed a 32,000-sq.-ft. office building, the first of two. The building is the first multitenant office building built in Broward County that was fully funded under the EB-5 visa program, which lets foreign nationals get permanentU. S. residency status in exchange for investing in a commercial enterprise. Construction will begin next fall on an additional building.
OAKLAND PARK — Pearl Artist and Craft, once a chain, closed its last store, its flagship location.
PALM BEACH — The Colony Hotel reopened after closing for five weeks for renovations under a “reimagining” by designer Carleton Varney.
PALM BEACH GARDENS — Bass Pro Shops will build one of its World Wide Sportsman stores on the site of an old Carl’s Furniture store.
POMPANO BEACH — A private investor paid $22.5 million for the 300-unit Whispering Isles rental development. Stonegate Bank acquired Weston-based Community Bank of Broward for $61.2 million, 140% of tangible book value, making Stonegate the 10th-largest Florida-based bank.
PORT ST. LUCIE — The state approved a veterans nursing home, a $40-million to $50-million project, on a 28.5-acre site in Tradition. The 120- bed home will employ 190. > Liberty Medical Supply will lay off 58.
WESTON — American Express is laying off 113.
Palm Beach State College President Dennis Gallon, 73, announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2015, after serving in the college’s top post since 1997.
Chemist Richard Campbell Zahn invented Herpecin-L, a lip balm for treating cold sores. After his death in 1995 from complications from AIDS, his estate sold assets, including Herpecin-L, and used the proceeds to endow the Campbell Foundation, a foundation Zahn had started in 1986 to support alternative, non-traditional research on preventing and treating HIV/AIDS. It has given away $9 million and, at last report, had $8.2 million in assets. Funders Concerned about AIDS now ranks the foundation among the top HIV/AIDS funders in the nation.