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Session Updates


The 2017 Legislative Session has ended with the Legislature passing 204 bills. These bills do not become law until reviewed and approved by the Governor. The Governor cannot veto a portion of a substantive bill. He must approve or veto the entire bill. Unlike substantive provisions, the Governor may veto individual budget line items in the General Appropriations Act or in other bills.
The Legislature does not have a deadline for sending bills to the Governor for review. The Legislature usually begins sending bills as soon as session ends and most bills will have been sent by the end of May. This year has been unusual and the Legislature has been slow in sending bills to the Governor. As of May 25, 2017, the Legislature has not sent the budget or any of the budget conforming bills to the Governor for review. Once the Governor receives the bills, he will have 15 days to approve or veto them.
Unless otherwise noted, none of the bills or budget items described in this newsletter have been approved by the Governor.

Higher Education Budget Highlights

The FY 2017-18 budget totals $82.4 billion and includes $4.99 billion in funding for the State University System. The budget contains an increase of $239 million in state support, which includes:

  • $20 million increase for Performance Funding bringing the State Investment to $245 million
    • $2.2 million potential increase for FIU (estimate)
  • $70.5 million for the World Class Faculty & Scholar Program
    • $7.2 million for FIU
  • $50 million for the Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program
    • $8.9 million for FIU

 New funding for the following FIU programs:

  • $5 million for FIU UP: LIFT
  • $1 million for StartUP FIU
  • $1 million for Hazardous Substance Mitigation
  • $337,050 in additional funding for the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model bringing the total funding to $969,689

The budget contains $264.6 million for the State University System for Facilities Funding (PECO) including the following for FIU:

  • $3.9 million for Maintenance
  • $15 million for Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, Phase II
  • $10 million for College of Engineering & Computing Complex, Phase I & II

The budget contains substantial increases in both need-based and merit-based Student Financial Aid:

  • $180 million increase for Bright Futures for Florida Academic Scholars, including summer awards for Florida Academic Scholars
  • $121 million increase for Florida Student Assistance Grants
  • $5.3 million increase for First Generation Matching Grant program
  • $1.2 million increase for Benacquisto Scholarship program
  • $500,000 for Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program

 The House’s budget proposal included reductions to the State University System.  The following proposed funding reductions were not included in the final budget:

  • A one-time reduction of $120.6 million in university reserves
  • $9.5 million for FIU
  • A recurring reduction of $53.2 million classified as university transfers to foundations to support fundraising
  • $7 million for FIU
  • A recurring reduction of $1.9 million to FIUnique

 

Higher Education (CS/CS/SB 374)

Bills relating to the State University System, the Florida College System, and University Direct Support Organizations were combined into one bill during the budget conference. The following provisions relate to the State University System.

Performance Funding

  • The current statutory metrics must be used for 2017-18 performance achievement and funding. 
  • The metrics for 2018-19 performance achievement and funding are changed to include:
  • The graduation rate metric be a 4-year graduation rate rather than the current 6-year graduation rate
  • The access rate metric must have benchmarks that reward institutions with access rates at or above 50%.
  • The Board of Governors must conduct a study of state investment allocation methodologies for the performance-based funding model.
    • The study must include various options, including options in which each university may be eligible to receive some portion of the state investment based on benchmarks that reflect the institutional mission of each university and irrespective of their performance-based funding model score relative to other university scores.
    • The BOG must submit a report describing the study, and any action taken by the Board relative to the study, to the Legislature by Dec 31, 2017.

Block Tuition

  • Each university board of trustees must by October 1, 2017 adopt a block tuition policy for implementation beginning in the fall 2018 academic semester.
  • The policy must apply to the entering freshman class of full-time, FTIC students and may be extended to include other enrolled students. The policy must:
    • Include tuition and any required fees, including, but not limited to, activity and service fees, financial aid fees, capital improvement fees, health fees, and technology fees;
    • Require the university to maximize the application of appropriate accelerated credits to minimize unnecessary credits and excess hours; and
    • Enable students to have the flexibility to earn credits across all terms of the entire academic year.
  • Each BOT must submit the policy and information on the potential impact of the policy on students to the BOG by October 1, 2017.
  • By Dec 1, 2017, the Chancellor must submit to the Governor, the President, and the Speaker a summary report, the status of the board’s review and approval of the block tuition policies, and the board’s recommendations for improving block tuition and fee benefits for students.

 World Class Faculty & Scholar Program

  • The program shall support the efforts of state universities to recruit and retain exemplary faculty and research scholars.
  • Retention, recruitment, and recognition efforts, activities, and investments may include, but are not limited to, investments in 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.
  • Each state university must use the funds only for the purpose and investments authorized. Funding shall be provided in the General Appropriations Act. These funds may not be used for the construction of buildings.
  • The BOG must submit a report by March 15 of each year to the Governor, President, and Speaker summarizing the information from the universities that includes:
    • Specific expenditure information as it relates to investments.
    • The impact of those investments in elevating the national competitiveness of the universities specifically relating to:
      • The success in recruiting research faculty and the resulting research funding;
      • The 4-year graduation rate;
      • The number of undergraduate courses offered with fewer than 50 students; and
      • The increased national academic standing of targeted programs, specifically advancement among top 50 universities in the targeted programs in well-known and highly respected national public university rankings, including, but not limited to, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which reflect national preeminence, using the most recent rankings.

 State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program

  • The program shall support the efforts of state universities 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.
  • Quality improvement efforts may include, but are not limited to, 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.
  • Each state university must use the funds only for the purpose and investments authorized. Funding shall be provided in the General Appropriations Act. These funds may not be used for the construction of buildings.
  • The BOG must submit a report by March 15 of each year to the Governor, President, and Speaker summarizing the information from the universities that includes:
    • Specific expenditure information as it relates to investments.
    • The impact of those investments in elevating the national and global prominence of the state university medicine, law, and graduate-level business programs, specifically relating to:
      • The first-time pass rate on the United States Medical Licensing Examination;
      • The first-time pass rate on The Florida Bar Examination;
      • The percentage of graduates enrolled or employed at a wage threshold that reflects the added value of a graduate-level business degree;
        • The advancement in the rankings of the state university medicine, law, and graduate-level programs in well-known and highly respected national graduate-level university rankings, including, but not limited to, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which reflect national preeminence, using the most recent rankings; and
        • The added economic benefit of the universities to the state.

        Financial Aid and Scholarships

        • Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars Award
          • Modifies the award to include 100 percent of public postsecondary institution tuition, certain tuition-indexed fees, and $300 for textbooks and college related expenses.
        • First Generation Matching Grant
          • Revises state to public match from 1:1 to 2:1
        • Benacquisto Scholars
          • Expands the scholarship to out-of-state students.
        • Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program
          • Creates the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program for farmworkers and children of farmworkers;
          • Provides that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for the scholarship.

        Direct Support Organizations (DSO)

        • Beginning July 1, 2022, a state university board of trustees may not permit any university direct-support organization to use university personnel.
        • Prohibits the use of state funds for travel expenses by any university direct-support organization.
        • Requires the chair of each board of trustees appoint at least one representative to the board of directors and the executive committee of a DSO.
        • Prohibits a university DSO from giving to a political committee.
        • Removes the public records exemption for DSO expenditures of state funds and any information related to the expenditure of private funds for travel.

         Preeminent State Research Universities

        • Changes the full-time FTIC student graduation rate metric from a 6-year graduation rate of 70% to a 4-year rate of 60%.
        • Provides the current metrics apply for the 2017 determination of preeminence status and funding.
        • Changes funding for emerging preeminent state research universities from one-half to one-fourth of total increased preeminence funding.
        • Eliminates preeminent state universities’ authority to require FTIC students take a 6-credit unique set of courses

         

        Programs of Excellence: 

        The BOG shall 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.

         

        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 bill 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.

        Statewide Articulation Agreements

        Each State College must 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. The BOG and SBCC must assist the universities and community colleges with implementing these targeted pathway programs       effectively by collaborating to eliminate barriers to their execution.

         

        State College System

        CS/CS/SB 374 restructures the governance of the Florida College System and modifies the mission statement.

        • The governance is changed by:
          • Renaming the Florida College System as the Florida Community College System (FCCS)
          • Establishing a State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC) and transferring responsibilities regarding Florida’s community colleges from the State Board of Education to the new board.
        • The SBCC shall consist of the Commissioner of Education and 12 citizens appointed by the Governor.
        • The mission statement for Florida’s education system is modified to add that the system avoid wasteful duplication of programs.
        • A cap is established on upper-level, undergraduate full-time equivalent enrollment at Florida’s community colleges.

         

        Student Loan Debt (CS/SB 396)

        Beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, a postsecondary institution that disburses state financial aid must annually provide students with information regarding their student loans. The information may be in print or an electronic format. The information includes:

        • An estimate of:
          • The student’s total amount of borrowed student loans.
          • The student’s total potential loan repayment amount, including principal and interest, for the total amount of borrowed student loans.
          • The student’s monthly loan repayment amounts for the total amount of borrowed student loans at the time the institution provides the student loan information.
          • The percentage of the borrowing limit that the student has reached at the time the information is provided.

        An institution is indemnified and does not incur liability for providing loan information to a student.

         

        Civic Literacy (CS/HB 7069)

        Beginning with students initially enrolling in a state college or state university in the 2018-2019 school year, each student must demonstrate competency in civic literacy.  Students will have the option to demonstrate competency through successful completion of a civic literacy course or by achieving a passing score on an assessment.

         

        State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement  - SARA (CS/CS/HB 859)

        Authority is given for Florida to participate in a reciprocity agreement with other states for the delivery of distance education.

        A council is created within the Florida Department of Education consisting of               members of Florida’s postsecondary education system. The council will administer agreements with other states to authorize Florida institutions to offer postsecondary distance education in the other states. Among the council’s duties will be reviewing and approving applications from institutions and ensuring that participating Florida institutions comply with the terms of the agreement.

        Participation fees are set according to FTE enrollment, with the highest fee not to exceed $4,500 per year for an institution with 10,000 or more total FTE enrollment.

        The Governor is given the authority to withdraw the state from any reciprocity agreement. 

        Public Records and Public Meetings

        • Information Technology (CS/CS/HB 501):
          • New public records exemptions for security investigation, detection, and response practices for state university technology systems.
          • New public meetings exemption for public meetings to discuss IT security.
        • Campus Emergency Response Plans (CS/HB 1079):
          • New public record and public meeting exemption for information associated with a state university’s campus emergency plan for responding to an act of terrorism, public safety crisis, or emergency.
        • Attorney Fees (CS/CS/SB 80):
          • New guidance and guidelines are created in the awarding of attorney’s fees in public records litigation.
          • The bill was approved by the Governor on May 23, 2017.

         

        State Group Insurance (SB 7022)

        Changes are made to health insurance benefits for state and university employees.  The changes are phased in over a 3-year period.

        • Calendar year 2018:
          • No changes to employee premiums.
          • New products will be added to the supplemental benefits currently available in the State Group Insurance Program.
          • The Department of Management Services will conduct a dependent eligibility verification (SB 2508).
        • Calendar year 2019:
          • Premiums for the HMOs will be different from the PPO premium to reflect the actuarial difference. The HMO premiums likely will be higher than the current employee premiums, but the PPO premiums likely will be lower than the current premiums.
        • Calendar year 2020:
          • Employees will have a choice of four differing health insurance benefit levels.
          • Platinum level, which shall have an actuarial value of at least 90 percent.
          • Gold level, which shall have an actuarial value of at least 80 percent.
          • Silver level, which shall have an actuarial value of at least 70 percent.
          • Bronze level, which shall have an actuarial value of at least 60 percent.
        • The state will make the same contribution toward premium for each employee in the same employee class and same coverage tier (individual or family).
        • The employee must use the contribution to purchase health insurance.
        • If the employee chooses coverage that costs more than the employer contribution, the employee must pay the difference.
        • If the employee chooses coverage that costs less than the employer contribution, the employee may elect to have the balance:
          • Credited to the employees’ flexible spending account;
          • Credited to the employee’s health savings account;
          • Used to purchase additional benefits offered through the state group insurance program: or
          • Used to increase the employee’s salary.

         

        State Retirement (SB 7022)

        • Default Plan: The default option for employees failing to select a retirement plan is changed from the pension plan to the investment plan.   However, the default option will remain the pension plan for members of the Special Risk Class. 
        • Survivor Benefits: Expands the survivor benefit for members of the Special Risk Class to provide that such benefits are retroactive to July 1, 2002. The bill also establishes a survivor benefit for all other membership classes of the investment plan who are killed in the line of duty and provides that the benefit is retroactive to July 1, 2002.
        • Renewed Membership: Renewed membership is authorized in the investment plan for retirees from the investment plan who are reemployed by the State or other participating entity.