A massive higher education bill became the first real piece of legislation heard by the full Florida Senate Wednesday.
The legislation would, among other things, change how the performance of state colleges and universities is calculated, something that according to critics would benefit of more traditional four-year universities.
Universities get a certain amount of money if they perform well on ten statewide standards like retention rates, affordability, and graduation rates. There are two additional standards for each college that are set by the board of governors and the particular institution.
Graduation rates are based on how long it's supposed to take to complete a degree program, called the normal-time-completion-rate plus 50-percent more time. So a bachelor's degree is supposed to take 4 years (100-percent) but students have 6 years before a college gets penalized (150-percent).
The new bill under consideration wants to shrink that grace period for measuring a college's performance back to the set time for the degree, or 100 percent. That means four years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for an associates and so on for other programs.
Colleges with a lot of students who might work full time or who don’t take a full course load—like Miami Dade College or Florida A&M University—aren't so happy about the prospect of losing out on that performance money with the shifting of that bar.
Democratic senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) tried to introduce an amendment to soften that blow which would have gradually implemented the graduation requirement change. Senator Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) introduced another amendment that would have allowed for a 125-percent-of-normal-time-completion-rate.
The amendments didn’t have Republican backing and all failed.
The senate package has one final vote on Thursday; a similar bill has not yet been voted on by the full House.