Strategies for Improving Higher Education in California: Some Lessons from Florida for California’s Higher Education Policy

by | Mar 2010

March 2010

California Can Learn from Other States to Improve Student Outcomes in Higher Education 

Several recent reports demonstrate that California needs to increase educational attainment levels to maintain economic competitiveness with other states and countries. In order to achieve this goal, it is especially important that California find ways to increase college success and degree completion in the state’s community college system where nearly three-quarters of undergraduates are enrolled. The higher education policies and practices in other states, particularly those with large and diverse populations, may offer lessons for California in its efforts to increase degree production. Florida is viewed as a reform-oriented state in the area of education policy, and has participated in a number of recent national projects focused on improving student outcomes. It is the fourth-largest state in the country and, like California, has a large public higher education system that relies heavily on its community colleges.

Some Policies in Florida Hold Promise for California

Several of Florida’s policy approaches for public higher education warrant consideration in policy reform efforts in California:

  • policies regulating student transfer from community colleges to public universities
  • a comprehensive student data system covering students in kindergarten through graduate study
  • standardized policies for assessment, placement, and remediation in the Florida College System
  • statewide program standards for Career and Technical Education certificates and degrees.

Florida’s Higher Education System

The State University System of Florida (SUSF) includes 11 universities governed by a Board of Governors (BOG) appointed by the Governor. Each university is administered by a Board of Trustees, with members appointed by the Governor and the BOG. The BOG establishes the powers and duties of the institutional boards. Total undergraduate enrollment is about 245,000 (170,000 FTE), and the system awards just under 50,000 bachelor’s degrees annually.

The Florida College System (FCS; until recently called the Florida Community College System) includes 28 colleges governed by the state’s Board of Education (which also governs the K-12 system). Each open-access college is governed by a Board of Trustees subject to the rules of the Board of Education, with members appointed by the Governor. System enrollment is about 900,000 (about 410,000 FTE, not including students in adult education/ GED programs). The system awards about 40,000 AA degrees, 12,000 AS/AAS degrees, and 21,000 certificates annually, along with about 1,000 bachelor’s degrees (14 colleges currently have bachelor’s programs).

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