A Florida Senate bill could bring some changes to the Florida College System, including Santa Fe College.
Senate Bill 540, also known as the “Community College Competitiveness Act of 2018,” would make changes to performance metrics, limit bachelor’s degree program enrollment, change the name of the Florida College System and re-establish a government-appointed board to oversee the system. If it passes, the bill would go into effect Oct. 1. Although the legislation may have a large impact on other state colleges, Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser said its impact on Santa Fe College would be limited given the college’s partnership with UF and high performance rates.
“All of it applies to us but with less restriction than some of the other (colleges),” Sasser said.
The bill, currently sitting in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, is a revised version of Senate Bill 374 that was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, according to a WLRN article.
The bill would change the name of the Florida College System back to the Florida Community College System. Sasser has no problem with the name change, he said.
“As a matter of fact, if I could have kept ‘Santa Fe Community College’ as the name when we started off with baccalaureate degrees, I would’ve done that,” he said. “That’s what we are.”
Jacobi Bedenfield, 21, a Santa Fe College organizational management junior, feels the term “community college” fails to encompass everything state colleges have to offer.
“It’s because we have kind of moved on from the traditional mission of community colleges,” he said.
Despite his disapproval of the name change, Bedenfield is in favor of the Supporting Students for Academic Success program that the bill would create. This program would assist students in an associate degree program with succeeding in college classes and transferring to a baccalaureate program.
“The program will be used to help all students, but especially non-traditional students and underprepared students,” he said.
The bill proposes to restrict the growth of baccalaureate programs by placing a 20 percent cap on enrollment. Currently, 4 percent of Santa Fe College students are enrolled in a baccalaureate program, Sasser said. The restriction would be a non-issue for the college because of the connections it has with universities throughout the state, particularly UF, he said.
“We have such a great relationship with our partner university, so it’s not an issue,” he said.
The bill would also change performance metrics to place greater emphasis on on-time graduation. Although this could be harmful for other state colleges, it would likely benefit Santa Fe College since they consistently perform well, Sasser said. Santa Fe College received the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, and was one of the few state colleges that received an increase in funding based on their performance, he said.
“I think it’s a fair way to measure Santa Fe but it’s not fair juxtaposed against the others,” he said.
Sasser isn’t worried about the future of Santa Fe College.
“I think it’ll be business as normal,” he said.