College Update – November 2012

A special message from Dr. Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the holiday season, I want to thank all of you for a fine fall term and bring you a few thoughts by way of update on issues affecting the college.

  1. Ten Thousand Dollar Degree – You may have read or seen something about this in recent days. Governor Scott, with a continuing interest in assuring the affordability of college to working Floridians, has consistently urged colleges and universities to keep the brakes on tuition. We, of course, have joined a dialog with him that also includes the concern about cost shifting to students – that is reducing state support and partially replacing it with tuition. Increases in tuition in the state universities have been much more dramatic than in the colleges like Valencia. Nevertheless, he includes us in his concern. Recently, he issued a “design challenge,” a kind of experiment to determine if it is possible to create a bachelor’s degree in a high-demand field that could be offered for a total tuition and fee of $10,000 or less. It is an intriguing challenge. Of course, with more state funding for our programs, tuition could be moderated. But I don’t think this is what he’s after. After some discussion, we decided to take him up on the design challenge, along with six other colleges. He came to announce the effort at our Lake Nona Campus on Monday, November 26. The model we are exploring is based on the working theory that the cost of a degree isn’t driven just by the prices set by the college; it is also a function of student behavior – readiness for college, careful planning to take the right courses, avoiding withdrawals and repeats, etc. So our early designs are built on discounting tuition in the fourth year of our bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering technology to students who met a set of performance expectations. What we have now is just the beginning of an idea. A design team, led by Dr. Falecia Williams, will be doing further work on this through the spring. In addition, a model like this will require the legislature to give us much more flexibility in setting and managing tuition and fees. We hope to learn from the experiment how responsive students might be to such tuition incentives.
  1. Legislative Matters – Now that the elections are over (thank heaven!) and the legislature is getting organized for their spring session, we are actively pursuing several priorities. Funding is at the top of the list. We are seeking for the system nearly $350 million over three years to fund our basic operations, to close the gaps in funding among institutions, and to grow our programs. Also included is a commitment to funding on the basis of performance, using metrics much like those used by the Aspen Institute in their selection of Valencia for the Aspen Prize. (We should do pretty well if this is funded.) Also in the funding priorities is a request to fund dual enrollment. By law, we cannot charge tuition and fees to dual enrollment students. The original legislation noted this and indicated that the waived tuition and fees would be paid by the legislature. It has been a long time since they have met this commitment. We believe they may be willing to fulfill this commitment in the coming year or two. It’s worth $60 million to the system, and some $3 million plus to Valencia. I don’t anticipate any further attacks on tenure from the legislature. The State Board is proposing rules to strengthen standards for awarding tenure across the system. Our faculty have had, and continue to have, significant opportunities for input on the rule revisions and will be represented at the rule-making workshop.
  1. Rob McCaffrey continues to do a fine job of representing the interests of Valencia’s faculty in many projects and issues. As he and I have been discussing the unusual number of ongoing matters of interest to faculty, we have agreed it may be useful to connect with conversation on all of these matters early in the New Year. We will be scheduling receptions for the faculty at several campuses in late January and early February to spend a few minutes in fellowship and then have a dialog on any and all of these matters. They will include the continuing contract issue mentioned above, as well as state changes to general education, work on textbook affordability, faculty work on the student assessment of instruction (SAI), the future of online learning at Valencia, and other matters. We’ll send out a short summary of the issues and invite additional suggestions for discussion soon.

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