Education, News

New Florida Law Hurts Dual Enrollment Students

Senate Bill 1514, passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in late-May, made changes to rules involving public school dual enrollment programs that reportedly may cost schools millions.

Previous rules required school districts to cover the cost of books and instructional materials, and colleges covered the cost of tuition using state appropriations and funding through an arrangement with school districts. The problem with those rules was that colleges lost $58 million in tuition costs, $43 million from programs on college sites. This has led to difficulties with enrolling regular college students, and has exacerbated due to the increase in Florida high school students participating in dual enrollment by about 30,000 in ten years. Much of the growth occurred in 2009, when dual enrollment classes began factoring into high school grade point averages.

SB 1514 was meant to respond to the outrage of college officials who have for years called for either increased funding or a revision of the law. The bill places the financial burden entirely on school districts, who will now have to “pay the standard tuition rate per credit hour from funds provided in the Florida Education Finance Program to the institution providing instruction (on its campus)…to cover instructional and support costs incurred by the post-secondary institution.” This rule does not apply if a course is taught by school district faculty, in which case the district only has to pay “the actual costs associated with offering the program.”

Many counties are beginning to take action. Santa Rosa and Escambia county officials, expecting to spend another $1.2 million and $600,000 for their respective dual enrollment programs, are planning to offer more college courses taught on high school campuses to offset some of the costs. Other counties have decided to offer more Advanced Placement courses as an alternative to dual enrollment or even proposed tax hikes on properties valued at $200,000 or more.

The rules could jeopardize South Florida’s most prestigious school, the School for Advanced Studies at Miami-Dade College and its sister school, the Academy of Advanced Academics at Florida International University. SAS, unlike other public schools, requires dual enrollment as part of its curriculum. The school works with Miami-Dade College’s various campuses to allow students from all over Miami to work towards receiving their Associate in Arts degree before they even finish high school. This model has led the school to being ranked 2nd in the state of Florida and 6th in the nation.

Academically, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is only planning a change in the maximum number of courses taken by 11th grade students in the 2013-2014 school year, from four to three. 12th grade students will not see a change in the amount of courses they can take per semester, according to an e-mail response to YPV by District Supervisor Monserrat Paradelo. However, without increased state funding, SAS and AAA may face significant cuts in the future.

MDC officials agree with the new rules, calling the cost of supporting SAS “onerous” without increased funding.

Many students and alumni have taken action by protesting at the Board’s budget meeting and creating a Change.org petition to repeal the new rules. But with such a repeal unlikely, the State of Florida would need to significantly increase funding for public schools in order to cover the extra costs for dual enrollment programs.

About Cristóbal Reyes

Cristóbal Reyes is a first-generation Chilean-American, a progressive political activist, and an aspiring political journalist. He studies Journalism and Political Science at the University of Central Florida and enjoys debating public policy and social issues.

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