Political meddling ill serves state colleges

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Friday, April 4, 2014

Perhaps state Sen. Joe Negron is right that some state colleges are guilty of mission creep in rushing to offer four-year degree programs. But his solution — to strip authority from the Board of Education to approve new bachelor degree programs for state colleges and force them to reduce their tuition for those programs — is another example of bad higher education policy on the fly. More than 10 years after embarking on this experiment, it is time for a thoughtful assessment of how four-year degrees at state colleges are working. But Negron, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, would further politicize and diffuse higher education governance when what is needed is a common vision and more financial investment.

Negron added language to a Senate bill dealing with tuition increases that would prevent the Board of Education from approving more four-year degree programs at state colleges, formerly known as community colleges. A dozen years after St. Petersburg College first won the right to offer a limited number of bachelor's degrees, 24 colleges now have approval for 175 different degrees. Negron contends at least some of those programs have strayed from the Legislature's original intent that colleges would offer four-year degrees to meet workforce needs in their communities, such as in nursing or technology.

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