The big news from week three of Session is the House proposed budget, offering changes to PECO funding sources to provide $370M this year for capital projects instead of the zero dollars expected.
The House Higher Education Committee introduced their budget conforming bill (HB 5201) creating the Florida Virtual Campus and setting up a degree completion pilot program geared to adult online learners. It also: establishes a higher surcharge for excess hours; provides the BOG with increased authority to transfer unused funds; limits Boards of Trustees transfer authority to $1m; makes changes to financial aid and tuition assistance programs; tightens reporting requirements for certain minority scholarship programs and enforcement of loan repayments.
The Senate Pre-K-12 Committee passed SB 1366 "Economic Security Act" aimed at improving information to students and parents about employment opportunities for the different degree majors to better prepare middle school students for STEM degrees. It establishes a partnership between the Department of Economic Opportunity, state Colleges and Universities and DOE to develop a database on graduates that will comprise the report provided to students. It also: provides for priority enrollment for university students returning after being employed in a STEM field; authorizes universities to use a portion of the tuition differential fee for financial aid for technology students, and creates performance funding for universities most successful in placing their technology graduates in Florida jobs.
Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committee
Passed SB 532, creating consistent rules for credits awarded for military education.
Held a workshop on the degree completion pilot program to be conducted by UWF, USF, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg state colleges. The pilot will focus on adult students using online classes. Depending on success measured after two years, pilot could be extended to include entire SUS and state College systems. Lengthy debate about the cost of online classes, with Senators strongly of the opinion they must cost less.
OPPAGA report on national review of how higher education has dealt with budget cuts, and comparison of Bright Futures to like programs.
The House Redistricting Committee voted out their three maps redrawing the lines for state Senate, House and Congressional districts. Debate before the full House is scheduled for next week. The Senate passed out their plans last week, setting up the possibility of final maps being sent to the Governor as soon as next Friday.
Senator Thrasher's bill (SB 1560) prohibiting colleges and universities from hiring legislators generated considerable debate in its first committee, but passed narrowly. A bill (SB 922) providing for new benefits to veterans, including priority course registration in colleges and universities passed the Senate and was sent to the House. Senator Bennett's SB 246 died in committee. It dealt with professional services bidding for agency contracts would have allowed for cost estimates to inform the detailed project.
Students from FGCU and other universities around the state attended their annual Rally in Tally event in Tallahassee. Twenty students from FGCU had the opportunity to get an up close and personal look of the working of the state legislature and were able to have meetings with several legislators. FGCU students were well prepared and demonstrated a great deal of professionalism. We received compliments on the student’s performance from member’s staff.