A special message from Dr. Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President
The Florida legislature goes into session this week, so I thought I would provide a brief update on our issues for you.
1. Funding for Valencia – Our most important priority has been to increase funding for Valencia. In years past, we have urged the legislature to re-examine the funding formula for Florida’s public colleges, because the current funding formula has failed to redress deep inequities in base funding among the colleges caused by failure to direct funding to high-growth colleges like Valencia.
In addition, the current funding formula doesn’t reward performance and productivity. During the same year that Valencia was recognized as the best community college in the nation, the College was ranked 27th out of Florida’s 28 state colleges in state funding.
We continue to urge legislators to make funding more equitable among the colleges — and have met with every member of the Orange and Osceola County delegations to make our case. Our team is working closely with legislators, our trustees and Valencia’s friends in the community to urge them to champion our cause.
2. Poinciana Update – We are continuing to press for funding for the Poinciana campus, working closely in Tallahassee with Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. Mike LaRosa, who have both become staunch advocates for the campus. We are also fortunate to have good community partners on this project, including Osceola County officials, who donated the land for the proposed campus. While we wait for more state funding for the Poinciana campus, Valencia College’s board of trustees voted in September 2014 to use $2 million from the College’s fund balance to pay for master planning of the site and design of the campus’ first building. By doing so, the trustees hope to expedite the construction process for this much-needed campus.
3. Textbook Sales Tax – As you may know, we were honored to host Gov. Rick Scott in January, when he visited the Osceola Campus to announce his proposal to eliminate sales taxes on textbook sales. Members of the Osceola Campus Student Government Association welcomed Gov. Scott and echoed his concerns over the cost of textbooks. Bill Mullowney, Valencia’s vice president for policy and the College’s general counsel, is heavily engaged in crafting that bill.
4. Performance Funding – For several years, the state legislature has been moving toward performance funding in higher education. The state’s universities are already operating on a performance-based funding model, which applies 10 metrics to each university. Schools that score well are eligible for additional funds, while schools with the lowest scores are not eligible for performance funds and may face cuts in their base funding.
At Valencia, we wholeheartedly support performance funding. We know that Valencia stands out when measured against our peers (and we have a few awards to prove that), and we strongly believe that Valencia will do well in a performance-based funding model. However, we are still urging legislators to make the base funding formula more equitable — otherwise, a performance-based funding model will exacerbate existing problems. Stay tuned for more on that discussion.
5. UCF Downtown Campus – Just as we are urging legislators to fund our Poinciana campus, University of Central Florida officials have been busy in Tallahassee, making the case for a Downtown Campus. We continue to work with UCF on this important project and believe that this will be a game changer for both downtown Orlando and the Parramore community. Thanks to our already strong partnership with UCF, we are uniquely positioned to create a seamless educational ecosystem in downtown Orlando — one that transitions students from high school to their first two years of college and then on to earn a bachelor’s degree or enter the workforce.
6. Guns on Campus Bill – Like many of you, I have been carefully monitoring a proposal in Tallahassee that would permit students and others to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The bill has received a great deal of attention. Higher education leaders throughout the state — as well as university police chiefs — have weighed in with key policymakers in opposition to this bill. There are differing opinions on this matter, of course, even among our own faculty and staff. I have taken a position in opposition to the bill, because I do not believe it enhances the safety of our students or staff. The training required to receive a concealed-carry permit is inadequate to prepare one to safely intervene in a critical incident on a crowded campus. This is a matter for properly trained law enforcement officers. It is my hope that this will be clear to the committees hearing the bill, and it will not be sent to the full legislature for further consideration.
If you have any concerns or questions about Valencia’s legislative priorities, please feel free to contact my office or Jay Galbraith, vice president of public affairs and marketing.
Finally, I want to remind you that we are looking forward to the grand opening of the new School of Public Safety, which is scheduled to be unveiled to the public on April 2. This is an exciting time at Valencia, as we greatly expand the reach and promise of what was once the Criminal Justice Institute. We look forward to fruitful partnerships with law enforcement, as well as the tourism industry, the security industry and federal and state governments, to provide students with a wide variety of educational opportunities. I invite you to join us for the celebration.