State College of Florida budget talk focuses on e-learning, charter school

MANATEE -- A three-fold increase in online students since 2008 is leading budget planners at the State College of Florida to push for an $875,000 infusion into "e-learning."

During Monday's discussion about SCF's proposed $48.1 million budget for 2012-2013, the SCF's board of trustees signaled it will be looking more closely at how the costs and revenue of SCF's charter school are documented.

The school's budget planners want to use carryover funds from the current fiscal year to fund five projects and programs that will further SCF's outreach in online learning. The push for "e-learning" is being driven by statistics that show a drop in traditional enrollment from 8,649 to 6,510 since 2008, but an increase in "distance learning" from 635 to 1,915.

"(Online learning) is what students want," said Carol Probstfeld, vice president of business and administrative services. "To the extent that they're not getting it here, they're going to get it somewhere else."

About $440,000 of the money would be used for

new software systems, while another $435,000 would be used for instructional material, staff training, course development, enhanced web capabilities and other needs generated by the ongoing transition to online learning. The transition could be a cost-saver for students. Some figures show that "e-textbooks" can save students up to $200 per semester.

Trustee Craig Trigueiro questioned how SCF accounts for the costs and revenues of its charter school for sixth through 12th graders, the Collegiate School. Trigueiro asked why the school was listed as an "asset" when it was actually costing SCF an unknown amount of money.

Board Chair Carlos Beruff reminded Trigueiro, a new board member, that the previous board knew the Collegiate School would need to be subsidized during its first few years of operation and would begin generating revenue by its third or fourth year. Probstfeld said she and her staff would have a full accounting of the school's costs in time for the board's May 30 meeting.

Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.