Session Updates

Week of 1/9/17

Interim Committee Meetings Begin

The Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives held the first two interim committee weeks leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session.  There will be four more committee weeks before the Session begins.  The 2017 Legislative Session starts on March 7, 2017 and will last for nine weeks.  Most committees had light agendas, with many committees not meeting.  Most of the committees had presentations and did not hear any bills.

State Budget Deficits Projected

Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees had presentations on the budget deficits projected in the Long-Range Financial Outlook (Outlook). 

The Outlook assists the Legislature in budget planning for the state.  The Outlook provides a longer-range picture of the state’s fiscal position including revenue estimates and expense projections of the major programs contained in Florida’s annual budget.   The Outlook informs the Legislature of the estimated amount needed to maintain existing programs in the budget over the next three years and highlights expected growth areas. 

The latest Outlook was adopted in September 2016 and finds that growth in the state’s critical needs is outpacing growth in revenues.  The largest driver is the Medicaid program with a projected increased need of $2.5 billion over the next three years.  Pre K-12 Education is projected to have an increased need of over $1.0 billion for the same period. 

For the first time since 2010 the Outlook is projecting a budget deficit.  This year’s Outlook projects a surplus of only $7.5 million for FY 2017-2018.  This amount is tiny considering Florida’s budget is over $82 billion.  The Outlook projects substantial budget deficits in the next two fiscal years.  A budget deficit of $1.3 billon is projected for FY 2018-2019 and $1.9 billion for FY 2019-2020. 

House Budget Cut Exercise

In response to the budget deficits projected in the Outlook, the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee directed the appropriations subcommittees to develop hypothetical budget reduction recommendations.  The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee was directed to recommend up to $304.8 million in potential reductions from the Higher Education budget.  The subcommittee must report its recommendations to the Appropriations Committee the Week of February 13, 2017.

To assist in the exercise, the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee members were given a list of 168 programs to review for possible reduction or elimination.  The programs total $225 million.  The list includes programs in the State University and State College Systems.  Here is the full list.

Included are the following FIU programs:

  • Center for Ethics & Professionalism: $1 million
  • Center for Democracy: $500,000
  • Center for Leadership: $250,000
  • Washington Center $300,000
  • FIUnique:  $3.9 million
  • Life Sciences Initiative: $4 million
  • Neighborhood Help Program:  $2.45 million
  • Neuroscience Centers of Florida Foundation: $1.5 million

Governor’s Higher Education Proposal

Governor Rick Scott continues his emphasis on making higher education more affordable.  This year he is also working toward helping students graduate in four years.  On January 10th, the Governor announced his    “Finish in Four, Save More” legislative and budget proposals for the 2017 Legislative Session. 

Governor Scott said, “Florida students should have every opportunity to earn a degree in four years without graduating with mountains of debt. While we have fought to make higher education more affordable by holding the line on undergraduate tuition, there is much more that can be done to help students.”

The Governor’s proposal includes:

  • Freezing all college and university fees at the current rates
  • Freezing State College tuition at the current rate
  • Cutting graduate teaching assistant fees by 25%
  • Expanding Bright Futures to summer classes which will assist students in graduating in four years
  • Reinstating the sales tax exemption for textbooks which could save a student more than $60 per year

Senate Higher Education Proposal

Senate President Joe Negron has made enhancing State University performance and funding a priority for his term as President.   On January 11th, Senator Bill Galvano, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, introduced two bills that contain the Senate President’s ideas for enhancing the State University System. 

“The bills are key components of a comprehensive higher education agenda that will boost the strength and competitiveness of our state’s higher education system as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs,” said President Negron. “Florida taxpayers see a return worthy of their investment in our entire PreK-20 system when our top Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities.”

The proposal, entitled the “Florida Excellence in Education Act,” includes:

  • Emerging Preeminent State Research Universities:  Reduces the award from 1/2 of the preeminence reward to 1/4.
  • Programs of Excellence:  Requires the BOG to establish standards and measures for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs that reflect national excellence and make recommendations to the Legislature by September 1, 2017 on how the programs could be enhanced and promoted.
  • Performance-based Funding:  Changes the metric for graduation rates from 6 year to 4 year. 
  • Statewide Articulation Agreement:  Requires each State College to have at least one “2+2” targeted pathway articulation agreement with one or more state universities by the 2018-2019 academic year.  The agreement must provide guaranteed access to the state university to students who meet specified requirements.
  • Block Tuition:  Requires each university BOT to adopt a block tuition policy for resident undergraduates and a policy for nonresident undergraduates for implementation by the fall 2018 academic semester.  The policies must be approved by the BOG.
  • Bright Futures:  Beginning with the fall 2017 academic semester, increases the Florida Academic Scholars award to include 100 percent of tuition and specified fees.  The recipient is also eligible each fall and spring semester for an additional $300 for textbooks and other expenses. 
  • First Generation Matching Grant:  Increases the state match.  The current match is 1 to 1.  The state match is increased to 2 dollars for each dollar of private donation.
  • Benacquisto Scholar Program:  Expands the Program to provide awards for qualified out-of-state students equal to the highest cost of resident student attendance at a state university. The student must physically reside in the community of the university he or she is attending.
  • Internship Opportunities:  The BOG is currently required to produce data-driven gap analysis of the state's job market demands and the outlook for jobs that require a baccalaureate or higher degree.  The proposal requires the universities to use this gap analysis to identify internship opportunities for students to benefit from mentorship by industry experts, earn industry certifications, and become employed in high-demand fields.
  • World Class Faculty and Scholar Program:  The program is to assist universities in recruiting and retaining exemplary faculty and research scholars.  Funding can be used for research-centric cluster hires, faculty research and research commercialization efforts, instructional and research infrastructure, undergraduate student participation in research, professional development, awards for outstanding performance, and postdoctoral fellowships.  Funding for the program would be through the General Appropriations Act.
  • University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program:  The program is to enhance the quality and excellence of professional and graduate schools and degree programs in medicine, law, and business and expand the economic impact of state universities. Funding can be used for targeted investments in faculty, students, research, infrastructure, and other strategic endeavors to elevate the national and global prominence of state university medicine, law, and graduate-level business programs.  
  • Courtelis University Facility Enhancement Challenge Grant Program:  The program was frozen effective July 1, 2011.  The proposal would allow the Legislature to appropriate matching funds in the 2017-18 General Appropriations Act for projects that had private matching funds donated before June 30, 2011, and that have not yet been constructed. 

Postsecondary Attainment

The House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee heard presentations on Postsecondary Attainment.  Attainment measures the educational status of a state’s population.  Attainment includes residents with degrees and high quality certificates.  Attainment also considers the migration of credentialed individuals into the state.   Attainment is not the same as completion, which measures the annual credentials awarded by a state’s educational institutions. 

Nicole Washington, Florida Policy Consultant for the Lumina Foundation, gave an overview of national attainment.  In 2014, Florida was ranked 22nd in educational attainment with 45.9% of the population having a postsecondary degree or quality credential.  Thirty-nine states, including Florida, have an attainment goal.  In addition to discussing the personal benefits of attainment, Ms. Washington discussed the economic and societal benefits to the state.  The benefits include meeting talent needs for employers, increasing the state’s GDP, increased civic engagement, and less need for public assistance. 

Alan Levine, member of the SUS Board of Governors and Chair of the Higher Education Coordinating Council (HECC), told the subcommittee that the HECC has adopted an attainment goal for Florida of 55% by 2025.   Governor Levine explained that attainment results in a higher salary for individuals and has many social and economic benefits to the state.

Florida’s attainment goal is tied to Florida’s workforce needs.  By 2025, 64% of Florida jobs will require education beyond high school. High attainment will assist Florida in attracting businesses and will enhance economic development.