Florida Senate passes 'Excellence in Higher Education' act
Legislation expands financial aid and scholarship programs, streamlines 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, strengthens performance tools to keep schools accountable to taxpayers
Tallahassee -- The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 2, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act, sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton). Senate Bill 2 is the key component of Senate President Joe Negron’s (R-Stuart) Excellence in Higher Education Agenda for the 2017 Legislative Session.
Senate Bill 2 promotes on-time graduation by expanding student financial assistance and support, establishing tuition and fee incentives, streamlining 2+2 articulation, and strengthening mechanisms that keep colleges and universities accountable to Florida taxpayers. The legislation also expands policy and funding tools universities can leverage to recruit and retain the very best faculty, enhance professional and graduate schools, and improve aging infrastructure and research laboratories.
Statement by President Negron:
“This comprehensive legislation will boost the strength and competitiveness of our state’s higher education system as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs. Our primary objectives are to work with universities to better serve students and increase their accountability to the taxpayers. I believe Florida taxpayers will see a return worthy of their investment when our top Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on-time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities.
“As we worked on this legislation over the last year, I have enjoyed the opportunity to hear from students and learn about the challenges they face as they work to complete their degrees. Like many students today, I worked throughout college and law school, and I understand the challenge of working and balancing difficult coursework. I am confident this package of policy enhancements will help more students graduate on-time, while maintaining the flexibility some students need as they balance their studies with family and work obligations.”
Statement by Senator Galvano:
“Our goal is to preserve access and increase affordability for Florida students, while at the same time making strategic investments that elevate the prominence of our state universities and increase their ability to compete as national destination institutions.
“By increasing need and merit-based financial assistance for university students and requiring universities to create flexible tuition policies, we can improve Florida’s 4-year graduation rate, which means cost savings for students and their families. Together with policy enhancements and funding investments that support university efforts to recruit and retain renowned faculty, improve facilities, and enhance professional schools, this legislation will help elevate the national reputation of Florida’s state universities, and further increase the return on investment for students, parents, and taxpayers.
“The bill prioritizes on-time graduation as a goal for our system of higher education, while still recognizing that, for a variety of reasons, not all students will be able to complete their programs within the traditional timetable. The legislation also makes it clear that schools are only evaluated on the graduation rates of our traditional, full-time, first-time-in-college students. No student is penalized in any way by this policy. In fact, this pro-student legislation supports students by removing barriers to graduation and helping ease financial insecurities that lead students to delay completing their degrees.”
SENATE BILL 2 – THE FLORIDA EXCELLENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION ACT
Expands Student Financial Assistance and Support
- Reinstates Highest Bright Futures Scholarship Program Award (Florida Academic Scholar) to cover 100 percent of tuition and certain tuition-indexed fees, including the summer term, plus $300 for textbooks and college-related expenses during the fall and spring terms.
- Expands the Benacquisto Scholar Program to provide awards for qualified out-of-state students, as funded in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), equal to the highest cost of resident student attendance at a state university. The student must physically reside in the community of the university he or she is attending.
- Revises the 1st Generation Matching Grant Program to provide two to one (state to local match versus one to one), as funded in the GAA.
- Creates the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program to provide need-based scholarships to cover the cost of tuition and fees for farmworkers and the children of farmworkers to earn a workforce certificate or a college degree.
Establishes Tuition and Fee Incentives
The Legislature has authorized state universities to implement flexible tuition policies to assist students in accessing higher education in our state. To date, no state university has implemented a block tuition policy.
- Requires universities to implement a block tuition policy, which must specify an in-state block tuition rate and an out-of-state block tuition rate for full-time undergraduate students. The university board of trustees and the Board of Governors must publicly approve the block tuition policy in time for implementation by no later than the Fall 2018 semester.
Streamlines 2+2 Articulation
- Establishes the 2+2 targeted pathway program to strengthen Florida’s 2+2 system of articulation and improve student retention and on-time graduation in four years with a baccalaureate degree.
- Requires each community college to execute at least one 2+2 targeted pathway articulation agreement by the 2018-19 academic year. The articulation agreement must provide students who meet specified requirements guaranteed access to the state university and baccalaureate degree program in accordance with the terms of the agreement.
- Requires district school boards to notify students and parents with accurate and timely information about how college credits generated in high school will apply towards a college degree.
Strengthens Mechanisms That Keep Colleges and Universities Accountable To Florida Taxpayers
Incentivizes full-time student graduation in four years by focusing institutional efforts on initiatives that reduce student time to, and costs of, on-time degree completion.
- Upgrades State University System (SUS) Performance Metrics in Preeminence and Performance Funding programs:
- Tightens graduation rate expectations to four-year (from six-year) for a baccalaureate degree. (Note: Universities are only evaluated based on the graduation rates of students who are enrolled full-time, beginning in the fall semester, and who have not previously enrolled.)
- Repeals preeminent university authority for a six-credit set of “unique courses” that consume time and money for non-transferable credit.
- Upgrades Florida College System (FCS) Performance Metrics in Distinguished College and Performance Funding programs:
- Tightens degree (associate and bachelor) graduation rate metrics to 100 percent (versus 150 percent) of normal-time completion. (Note: Colleges are only evaluated based on the graduation rates of students who are enrolled full-time, beginning in the fall semester, and who have not previously enrolled.)
- Adds a college affordability metric, which must be adopted by the State Board of Education.
- Specifies the job placement metric must be based on wage thresholds that reflect the added value of the applicable certificate or degree.
Expands and Enhances Policy and Funding Tools State Universities can Leverage to Recruit and Retain the Very Best Faculty
- Establishes a World Class Faculty Scholar Program to fund university efforts to recruit, recognize, and retain star faculty and teams, as funded in the GAA.
- Establishes a University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program to promote quality and excellence in university professional school and graduate study outcomes in high-impact fields of medicine, law, and business, as funded in the GAA.
- Links education to job opportunities by expanding university responsibility to identify internship opportunities for students to benefit from industry experts and mentors, earn industry certifications, and become employed in high-demand fields of unmet need.