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Executive Summary
 
Acknowledgments
 
Introduction
 
The Importance of 2/4 Transfer
 
The Different Dimensions of Transfer
 
The Accountability Problem and Transfer “Rates”
 
Research on State Policy and Transfer
 
Six-State Focus
 
    Arkansas
 
    Florida
 
    New Mexico
 
    New York
 
    North Carolina
 
    Texas
 
Lessons Learned about State Transfer Policy
 
Conclusions and Recommendations
 
References
 
State Resources
 
About the Author
 
The Institute for Higher Education Policy
 
The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
 

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Page 10 of 21

FLORIDA


Florida has a reputation for a strong statewide commitment to community college transfer. The state’s community colleges have historically been the primary point of access to public postsecondary education. Close to 85% of the state’s undergraduate enrollments are in public institutions, with 55% in 28 community colleges and almost 30% in 11 four-year institutions (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2000). There is also a large private sector: 41 two-year and 61 four-year institutions. Public sector tuitions remain very low, at around $2,000 annually for the public four-year institutions and $1,250 for the community colleges. Florida has a large, but relatively thinly funded, need-based financial aid program, the Florida Student Assistance Grant, which provides approximately $35 million annually to some 40,000 students. The recently adopted Bright Futures Scholarship program provides merit-based aid to high-performing high school graduates; this program was funded at $131.5 million in 2001–02.

Governance

Until relatively recently, Florida had a segmental governance structure for postsecondary education, with a statewide governing board for the public four-year colleges, and a statewide coordinating board along with local governing boards for the community colleges. In 2000 the state legislature abolished the statewide boards and created a single statewide Board of Education with policy and budgetary authority for both the public four-year and community colleges. At the same time, each of the four-year campuses was given a local governing board; the two-year colleges have had local boards for many years. The statewide postsecondary planning agency, the Council for Educational Policy Research and Improvement (CEPRI), reports to the legislature and also has an advisory role to the Florida Board of Education in budget, planning, and policy review. The legislatively mandated Articulation Coordinating Committee continues to oversee articulation and transfer policies. It is chaired by the deputy commissioner of education and includes administrators representing community colleges, technical colleges, and four-year public and independent institutions. This group monitors adherence to articulation policies and adjudicates problems.

Enrollment Planning

Florida expects rapid enrollment growth in public institutions over the next decade and projects a 26% increase in the number of high school graduates (from 1999 to 2010). At the same time, the state has made it a general priority to increase the percentage of state residents who hold the baccalaureate degree, although there are no specific numerical goals attached to this priority. The Council for Educational Policy Research and Improvement has recommended that the state consider expanding baccalaureate authority on community college campuses; to date, this has occurred only at St. Petersburg College (a two-year institution) in the high-demand fields of nursing, teacher education, and instructional technology. Many of the community colleges maintain concurrent or dual enrollment programs with the four-year institutions, and these concurrent programs enroll some 13,000 students.

Academic Policies Affecting Transfer

For many years, Florida has maintained a so-called 2+2 policy for postsecondary education: students begin their college education in a community college before transferring to a four-year institution. The legislation that created the community college system, in 1957, also mandated that there be strong articulation between the two- and four-year institutions. Many of the four-year institutions began as upper-division campuses; all now offer four-year programs. The state maintains an explicit unit requirement for degrees: 120 units for the baccalaureate and 60 for the associate degree, 36 of which must be in a general education core. The framework for the general education core is common to the four-year and two-year institutions and is stated in statute as well as regulation. This common core has also been voluntarily adopted by the majority of private colleges. The core courses differ from institution to institution, within the statewide agreement about the basic five core areas. There is a common prerequisite list for each degree program, which includes courses that count toward the degree as well as any prerequisites for admission into the program. These courses are listed in a statewide electronic catalogue, FACTS (Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students).

State law specifies that any student who earns an associate degree will be guaranteed admission into a public university degree program, and the units from core courses transfer as a block to any public institution. Thus students need not negotiate individual course-level transfers with the receiving institutions. They are not guaranteed admission into high-demand programs or into programs with special requirements, but the law requires that transfer students be treated the same way as native students with respect to admission to these programs. Students who believe they have been treated unfairly can bring their complaints before the Articulation Committee.

Florida was one of the first states to mandate college placement and achievement testing, accompanied by a law on remedial instruction for students who fail to qualify for college- level placement. Students entering college without ACT or SAT scores are required to take the Common Placement Examination in English/writing and math; the statewide cut- scores are 73 for math and 82 for English/writing. Some 8% of the students in four-year institutions require remediation—most of these are students who were special admits. Florida law requires all remediation to take place at a community college.

Data Collection and Accountability

Florida has a statewide commitment to performance funding and accountability reporting for all state institutions, including the universities and community colleges. The state has separate mandatory accountability reports for the two-year and public four-year institutions, and reporting on student transfers and transfer performance is embedded within each. Databases are centralized at the system level, use common course numbering systems, and students are identified through Social Security numbers. Accountability legislation requires all public institutions to report on transfers. The two-year colleges are responsible for reporting on course and transfer patterns to four-year institutions, and the four-year institutions report on transfer students’ performance at their institutions.

Approximately half the students in Florida’s community colleges are enrolled in associate programs. Of the students who transfer to a four-year institution, roughly one-third do so after completing the associate degree, another one-third prior to obtaining the degree, and another one-third with more than 60 units but no degree. Most of the state accountability reporting focuses on students who have obtained the associate degree prior to transfer. Data from the State Board of Education show that those who transfer with the associate degree remain in school and/or complete their baccalaureate degree work at slightly higher levels than freshmen students in the state university system, 68% after six enrolled years in comparison to 60% of native students. Transfer rates for 2/4 transfer are calculated and reported only for students who receive the associate degree: 62% of these students were enrolled in a public four-year college in the year after leaving community college, and 70% were enrolled five years after leaving.

Florida also has an incentive- and performance-based budgeting process for the community colleges but not for the four-year institutions. The performance-based funding program is separate from the accountability reporting system. There are two separate pots of funds for performance-based funding, one for the A.A. degree and another for the A.S./A.A.S. degree, certificate programs, adult vocational, and continuing education, encompassing both K–12 and community colleges. The A.A. performance- based funding pool for community colleges provides roughly 1% of base funding for rewards for four types of performance: the number of students completing the A.A. degree, the number of students who complete the A.A. degree by taking less than 72 units, the number of completers from targeted populations, and the number of completers who transfer to a state university or get a job. The new State Board of Education plans to revisit the structure of accountability reporting for the four-year institutions, partly to better align K–12 accountability with postsecondary education, and partly to improve the connection between postsecondary data reporting and state policy goals for higher education. Task forces are working on a proposal for a performance-based budgeting system for the state universities.

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