The Florida Legislature passed an $82.4 billion budget and received a well-deserved grade in a recent Palm Beach Post editorial (Legislature earns an ‘A’ for boosting universities, May 3). This legislature’s $587 million increase in higher education funding deserves applause, indeed. However, proponents and sponsors of this significant boost seem to have overlooked a vital economic component of Florida’s higher education system.
The Florida College System (FCS) institutions, comprised of 28 state and community colleges, were not only left out of the higher education increase, they were dealt a recurring $30.2 million cut in state funding, despite the fact that the majority of Florida’s higher education students are enrolled at these institutions.
Locally, this budget levels a permanent cut of $1.05 million to Palm Beach State College (PBSC). In the face of increased college enrollment, this reduction will require cuts in programs and services, and create hardships and sacrifices for many of the 48,000 students PBSC serves annually.
The funding cut was based on the assertion that enrollment in developmental courses has decreased at FCS institutions, because the state no longer requires recent high school graduates to take or pass placement exams to test out of remedial education courses. This premise ignores the obvious: Most of the students who would have tested into remedial math, reading, and/or writing continue to enroll at local colleges, not universities where entrance requirements have increased. The success of these deserving students requires greater academic support and services, not less.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Florida ranks first in the nation in higher education, due in part to the state’s highly touted “2+2” college-university pathway, recognized as a model transfer mechanism for student success. The impact of this budget will be felt at all levels, since 65 percent of college-bound high school students use the “2+2” college-university pathway. Simply put, students will find it harder to access the classes and services they need to complete their education on time.
The average PBSC student is 25 years old. Many students attend college part-time due to family and/or job responsibilities; 86 percent are employed, with 40 percent working full time. They are taking classes to enhance or advance in their careers. These students enroll at PBSC because they recognize the value of investing in their future success. They need the state to recognize their value as well.
PBSC is your college. We enable your best and brightest to graduate debt free, while also providing opportunities for single parents, veterans, students with disabilities and displaced workers to succeed. We are the economic engine providing the trained professionals that enable our communities’ safety, growth and prosperity.
A short-sighted state budget that delivers the unfortunate message that over 800,000 of Florida’s students are less important is an affront to them, and a disservice to communities and employers that rely on their local colleges.
CAROLYN L. WILLIAMS,
Editor’s note: Carolyn L. Williams is vice chair of the Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees.
Locally, this (state) budget levels a permanent cut of $1.05 million to Palm Beach State College.