Florida state colleges will make a pitch to lawmakers during the 2018 session to restore a $30 million budget cut and increase funding to hire more faculty, provide more counseling services and create more programs aimed at closing the “employment gap” in high-demand jobs.
"I think this request reflects the priorities and goals of our system,” said Daytona State College President Tom LoBasso, who heads the college system's council of presidents. “We feel this is an important investment in the future of Florida.”
LoBasso said if lawmakers adopt the budget initiatives for the 2018-2019 academic year during the upcoming session, which begins in January, they will offset a $30 million cut the schools sustained in the current budget.
The 28 colleges are advancing a budget plan to increase performance-based funding to $80 million next academic year, up from $60 million this year. Half of the funding would come from the state and the other half from the colleges themselves.
Another $75 million initiative would increase certificate and degree programs aimed at moving students into high-skill, high-wage jobs where the Florida Chamber of Commerce's “Florida Jobs 2030” report has identified a gap between trained workers and the needs of businesses. The programs would be focused in areas like aviation, finance, health care, logistics and computer science.
The colleges are asking for $67 million for initiatives aimed at “student success and completion” efforts, including having more students graduate on time.
A major emphasis would be increasing the number of counselors who advise students on academic paths and goals. In 2016, the Florida college system had a ratio of 730 students for every counselor, well above a recommended average of 400-to-1 by the National Academic Advising Association, according to a report given to the State Board of Education this month.
Christine Davis, a vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Florida SouthWestern State College, told the Senate Education Committee on Monday that her school had a ratio of 1,100 students for every counselor.
“We're working to get that down,” she said.
Naima Brown, vice president of student affairs at Santa Fe College, said the ratio of students to counselors at her school is 1,000-to-1 for students seeking associate degrees.
The funding would also be used to provide more tutoring, academic coaching and mental health services for students.
The colleges are also asking for $50 million to retain and hire top-level faculty.
“Of particular concern is the ability of (college system) institutions to offer a competitive salary for high-demand STEM faculty,” according to the report given to the State Board of Education.
The colleges are also asking for $401 million in construction funding and $210 million in maintenance funding in the new state budget.