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State college revamp goes to Senate floor

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would place the 28 state colleges under a new statewide board and impose a cap on the number of students enrolled in four-year degree programs in the system.

The bill (SB 540), sponsored by Senate Education Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, originally sought to place the schools under a 13-member “State Board of Community Colleges” and rename the system as the “Florida community college system.”

But in an amendment adopted Wednesday, the Florida college system would retain its name and the schools would be under a new “State Board of Colleges.”

Although the shift in names does not resolve colleges’ concerns about the need for the new oversight board and the necessity of the cap on baccalaureate enrollment, it is an acknowledgment of the changing roles of the colleges and the fact that most institutions no longer call themselves “community colleges.”

Only four of the 28 schools still have that label, and two schools --- Florida Keys Community College and North Florida Community College --- want to drop that designation in bills pending in the Legislature.

In addition to creating the new governance board, the bill would limit the enrollment of four-year degree students to no more than 20 percent of a college’s entire enrollment, while the statewide system would have a 10 percent enrollment cap.

The newly renamed “College Competitiveness Act of 2018” passed in a 15-4 vote. It next heads to the Senate floor.