When the new Legislative session begins in January, lawmakers will debate policy and craft budgets.
WUSF's education reporter Cathy Carter recently spoke with Thomas LoBasso, the President of Daytona State College and head of the Association of Florida Colleges about the priorities for the state's 28-college system.
Dr. LoBasso, last year the state college system faced a $30 million dollar budget cut. You sent a letter as the head of the Council of Presidents of State Colleges to Governor Scott stating that cuts will be detrimental to state and local communities and could take years to restore and even longer to recover.
Yes. I think people need to understand that we haven't raised tuition in seven years which is a good thing for the students but in order to do that, you do need to have an investment at the institution. Over time if not corrected quickly, you’ll see less advisers and less full time faculty teaching and more adjunct faculty. You would see a lessening in the quality of the experience the students may have.
You’ve said for the next session, the state colleges are asking for $286 million dollars. $80 million of that is for performance based funding which is split between the individual institutions and the state. Can you share with us what else you'd like the state to invest in for the college system as we look ahead?
Sure. The other piece we're asking for is $ 40 million for industry certifications directly helping students getting a credential to help them with seeking a job. Then moving on, we are asking for $75 million for workforce preparation to help us increase degrees and certificates to fill employment gaps. We think $75 million dollars will help us start new programs or even expand. A lot of the programs we do are workforce oriented and they tend to be expensive. I'll give you an example. At Daytona State we offer a machining program and you only can put 18 students in that lab at a time. It requires a full time professor as well as an assistant for safety and we'd like to expand those because the demand is out there, but we can't do that without the investment. And then we're asking for $67 million in student success. A big piece of that is we want to try to improve our student to advisor ratio. As a system, our student to advisor ratio is one adviser to 730 students, so you can imagine it's a little difficult to manage a load like that. We'd like to really invest in our advising so that we can keep people on the proper path and give them the proper advice so that they can finish as early as possible in a program that meets their needs. And then we're asking for $50 million to recruit and retain high quality faculty. So that's a ten thousand foot view of our priorities for this year. I think it reflects the goals of the state to help attract businesses and retain businesses because we're the colleges that are producing the workforce that they need."
What's your vision for the state college system in the next 10 years or so? What should the system look like?
I do think the state is in really good shape. I think we've grown economically and we're attracting businesses which I think will give us a sustainable type growth. So the Florida college system will play an ever important role in producing and training the workforce. I think we will grow in enrollment. For a lot of students this is the only option for them to start their college career. So I do feel we will get the support we need to be successful."