The Florida Developmental Education Association is firmly opposed to the proposal to trim approximately $131 million from the Florida College System budget, which will include a $55 million dollar reduction in funding for remediation. If passed, this budget will result in a 74 percent reduction in higher education appropriation.
Honestly, it is difficult to understand the rationale for such deep cuts given the positive economic impact and national exposure of Florida’s two-year institutions. In 2013, an executive summary issued by EMSI concluded that Florida’s state and community colleges contributed $26.6 billion annually to Florida’s economy, providing taxpayers with a 9.4% return on their investment. This analysis is aligned with more recent findings released by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) on the nationwide economic impact of community colleges. Dr. Tom Bailey, CAPSEE lead researcher, asserts that “the fundamental policy implication is that college is a good investment.” Furthermore, FCS institutions consistently garner national acclaim. In 2015, Tallahassee Community College was ranked as one of the top ten community colleges in the country by Huffington Post. Broward College and Indian River State College are 2017 finalists with distinction for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Last week, the Florida Department of Education released stunning data showing that Florida’s state and community colleges continue to lead the nation in percentage of community college graduates. Again, it is difficult to understand how excellent performance is rewarded with cuts.
More discouraging is the proposed cut in remediation. Enacted in 2013, Florida Statute 1008.30, also known as Senate Bill 1720, was indeed groundbreaking legislation designed to accelerate academic progression by allowing students to exempt placement testing. Quite naturally, by allowing large groups of students to opt out of remediation, statewide data reflect declines in enrollment in developmental education courses by approximately 44%. Nonetheless, those declines do not necessarily equate to reduced need, a point that Edwin Massey, president of Indian River State College, argued in a recent article in the Tallahassee Democrat, for what has not changed as a result of the 2013 legislation is the number of diverse students who arrive on our campuses with wide-ranging academic abilities. By merely shifting academically underprepared students to gateway English, math and other college credit-bearing courses without remediation, more academic support has become necessary in order to ensure the success of those students.
FDEA, an organization that represents faculty, staff and administrators who provide learning assistance to students at two-year and four-year institutions in Florida, contends that academic support for students across the learning continuum remains an important feature of the community college and the true role of developmental education. We agree with members of the Council of Presidents who have argued against these cuts, particularly cuts to programs that assist our most vulnerable student populations. As open-access institutions, Florida’s state/community colleges cannot afford to abandon the mission to provide academic and economic opportunity for all.
Sharisse Turner, President
Florida Developmental Education Association