The Florida College System Needs Your Support

Friday, March 18, 2011

Now is the time to strengthen rather than blunt the work of the 28 state/community colleges now known as the Florida College System.

Our economy and quality of life depend on it.

The college hopes of some 1 million Floridians are at stake, too.

Here’s why: It is being said that big budget cuts are inevitable next year for colleges and universities and other public agencies. Most all have been hit with millions in budget cuts in recent years because of shrinking state revenues. And next year, millions in federal stimulus money that helped shore up the state budget is going away with no hope the state can make up the difference given the estimated $3.6 billion deficit.

But when it comes to investing in the Florida College System, please consider this: Benefits outweigh costs, with a rate of return on investment of 33.9 percent. That’s from Florida TaxWatch, which keeps a close eye on how state money is spent.

Despite budget cuts, the colleges have successfully maintained their open-door admissions. They’ve worked hard to fulfill their promise of open access even as the bad economy sent unemployed and underemployed Floridians back to school, helping to fuel rapid enrollment growth.

Right now, some 1 million Floridians – including 66 percent of the state’s college-bound high school graduates – are enrolled at one of the 28 schools in the system. That up nearly 200,000 from 2005-06.

Brevard, Lake-Sumter, Seminole State and Valencia – the four colleges that partner with UCF in DirectConnect – enroll some 130,000 students collectively.

Such staggering numbers show students – more than ever — are relying on the Florida College System to lift them toward brighter futures by helping them earn degrees and certificates that will win them well-paying jobs. Recent college graduates make more money than high school graduates – from about $10,900 to $26,700 more a year on average.

It’s not all about recent high school graduates either. Spurred by layoffs and reduced work hours, workers of all ages flock to Florida’s state colleges in hopes of learning new skills so they can become more employable and productive.

Employers depend on us for a large portion of their workforce. A single year’s graduates will currently add almost $21 billion to the state’s economy over their working lifetime.

We know that there are difficult choices to be made, but we ask you to join us in urging legislators to fund enrollment growth so that a college education remains accessible when students need it most.

If modest tuition increases are needed to achieve this, authorize local colleges to do this to fund at least a portion of their growth and create the capacity to serve their students.

Ask them to approve legislation that would help colleges facing the worst space crunches get more money to build classrooms and renovate buildings prematurely worn by overuse.

And, if you are one of the tens of thousands counting on DirectConnect to get you guaranteed admission to UCF by graduating from a partner state college, be sure to emphasize how much it matters to you to keep this unique college-to-university pipeline open.

The time to act is now. We urge those who are relying on a strong state college system and their friends and families to contact their state legislators and the governor right away. Tell them why you think the smartest thing they could do is invest in the Florida College System to help grow the Florida economy and give our citizens the chance to achieve their college dreams.


James A. Drake, president, Brevard Community College

E. Ann McGee, president, Seminole State College of Florida

Charles Mojock, president, Lake-Sumter Community College

Sanford Shugart, president, Valencia Community College

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