Lawmakers handed the State College of Florida a small victory Wednesday by amending a bill that could have limited the school’s ability to provide bachelor’s degrees.
Senate Bill 374, dubbed the “College Competitiveness Act of 2017,” originally capped enrollment in bachelor-degree programs at 8 percent for community colleges, and it nearly doubled the amount of time it would take for a community college to get a new baccalaureate program approved. But on Wednesday the house subcommittee on higher-education appropriations increased the cap on bachelor’s to 10 percent and restored the approval time to the current 180-day process.
“(The amendments) preserve the college’s ability to be responsive to emerging educational and economic needs in Manatee and Sarasota counties,” said Brian Thomas, the special assistant to the president at SCF.
Depending on who is talking, the original bill could strengthen community colleges by helping them focus on their core mission of providing associate degrees, or it could hamstring growth and place undue burden on a system priding itself on quickly adapting to community needs.
(Galvano) was willing to take input and have conversation. He was a Manatee Community College graduate, and he understands the unique qualities of our system. He was willing to ... make adjustments for what our system needs. Brian Thomas, the special assistant to the president at SCF.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, co-sponsored the bill. A graduate of Manatee Community College (SCF’s previous name), Galvano said the legislation is intended to prevent “mission creep.”
“We don’t want a situation where community colleges are trying to be universities,” he told the Bradenton Herald last week. Part of the bill renames the Florida College System — composed of 28 state colleges that mostly award associate degrees — to the Florida Community College System.
But Galvano apparently heard the concerns of his alma-mater, according to Brian Thomas, the special assistant to the president at SCF. Galvano proposed the amendment restoring the time frame for introducing a new baccalaureate program, and Sen. Gary Farmer Jr. from Broward, proposed raising the cap on baccalaureate programs from 8 percent to 10 percent.
“(Galvano) was willing to take input and have conversation. He was a Manatee Community College graduate, and he understands the unique qualities of our system,” Thomas said. “He was willing to ... make adjustments for what our system needs.”
Galvano was not immediately available for comment.
The bill still needs to be heard by the Senate appropriations committee.