Why do our state elected officials keep going after minority and low-income students?

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Grant Miller, Publisher

Grant Miller, Publisher

Get ready, because I have several questions about our state legislature’s incessant attacks on minority and low-income students in the form of Senate Bill 540 and House Bill 831. Reminiscent of SB374 from the 2017 Session, which was fortunately vetoed by Gov. Scott last year, the ugliness has returned.

The bills presented in the 2018 session are clearly designed to adversely affect the proven success of our renowned Florida College System (FCS) and derail the dreams of so many of our students. Legislators are advocating for changing the governance structure of the FCS, adding a “two-year graduation” performance metric for funding and capping college workforce baccalaureate programs offered by institutions such as Miami Dade College – which awards more degrees to minorities than any other college or university in the country.

FCS is the highest performing system in the nation, ranked in the top tier of all higher education institutions nationwide for its success rates of completion and production of certificates and degrees. And, FCS institutions have accomplished this despite ongoing reductions in state funding – and while not raising tuition.

So, what’s really going on here? Why is the Republican-controlled legislature trying to alter a system that’s been operating so effectively and successfully for decades? Why is it a chief priority the senate president to fix a problem that is not broken?

There is nothing wrong with the system that full funding can’t solve. Still, several lawmakers want to punish community colleges, eliminate local control, and ultimately make it more difficult for our students to succeed.

Could demographics, nationality, or the socio-economic background of the communities served by the FCS have a role in these punitive measures? I know those are tough words, but nothing else makes sense. These colleges offer invaluable and sometimes life-saving opportunities for first-generation, minority, and low-income students.

It’s clear to me our elected officials in the legislature are fixated on negatively impacting the core of our community. And no matter how their public relations machines try to package up what they are doing to colleges like MDC, Broward College, and Palm Beach State College — which enroll about half of all community college students in Florida – it’s not working.  

It’s clear, and ugly, and wrong that some elected officials would actively engage in such blatant efforts to harm the future of students who are not only trying to make ends meet, but are seeking a better future for themselves, their families, and our Greater Miami.

I recently read that the three presidents of our community colleges in South Florida agree that their students would be the victims of the “unintended consequences” of this unnecessary overhaul.

Here’s how Senate Bill 540 (SB540) and House Bill 831 (HB831) will work toward dismantling the proven success of the FCS:

  • Governance: The bills would change FCS governance from local boards to a statewide board, therefore eliminating each college’s ability to respond to the needs of its community.
  • Performance: The bills would add a new performance metric called the “100% graduation rate” that requires students seeking an associate degree to graduate in two years. Florida colleges serve unique populations, and a vast majority study part-time. Only a small percentage of students who attend full-time could meet this measure. 
  • Enrollment caps: The bills would establish enrollment caps for critical baccalaureate degree programs offered at state colleges. These programs work to meet the demands of the local workforce, and also provide an option for students looking to obtain a college degree closer to home.

It seems that, instead of recognizing the FCS for its accomplishments, our state leaders are trying to fix a system that isn’t broken. It’s time to speak up and tell our elected officials how you really feel. Tell them that the FCS needs more funding to ensure every Floridian can go to college. Tell them that our state has the best college system in America, and that any proposals to diminish the quality of our system should be taken out of the equation.


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10 Comments on "Why do our state elected officials keep going after minority and low-income students?"

  1. Many students have neither the time or money to devote full time to college studies. Community colleges fill that gap, allowing them to do what they can when they can and earn their degree. The goal is to finish, not to have to sprint to the finish. The legislature is trying to limit educational opportunities to those who have money, lots of it. That is our Republican elite speaking. They only serve the rich.

  2. The vast majority of students in the Florida College System are not minorities, so why are you trying to frame these bills as having an anti-minority motivation? When I see someone crying racism about any public policy change —especially when it’s done by the whitest white man I have ever seen— it’s a big turn off.

    I am naturally inclined to oppose anything that hurts the Florida College System, but I would rather sit on the sidelines than be grouped with dopey white left wingers who falsely scream racism at everything they disagree with.

    • Are you sure? Have you seen the statistics from MDC and Broward College? Most of their students are minorities. I really don’t know where you get your facts. This has nothing to do with leftists ideas and a lot to do with doing the right thing for our children.

  3. Jeffrey Solomon | January 25, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Reply

    All of Florida’s citizens, and it’s businesses are dependent upon and must be most thankful for the Florida College System (FCS) and it’s historic success for serving our economy and the quality of life that Florida can brag about.
    Regarding HB 831 & SB 540 – While I find it hard to believe a great many individual legislators are specifically intent on damaging lives based on “demographics, nationality, or the socio-economic background”; handycapping the lives of these struggling classes is certainly the result of the proposed legislation – most especially in South Florida. Regardless of intent though, all that matters is the inhumane result.
    I would suggest that too many legislators are shortsighted in their decision making and they are catering to special interests that help them buy their political offices. They have total disregard for the individual constituents they serve and how their lives are effected by the selfish and shortsighted ignorance of their legislative decisions.

  4. It’s all about for-profit college. The Florida public colleges cut into that profit by offering accredited educational degrees for a fraction of the tuition charged by for-profit (usually unaccredited) colleges.

    Follow the $

  5. Hay for Grant and for Jeff’s response. I’m proud of both of you. – Sally

  6. Yay for Grant’s article and Jeff’s response! I am proud to know you both. – Sally

  7. “So, what’s really going on here? Why is the Republican-controlled legislature trying to alter a system that’s been operating so effectively and successfully for decades? Why is it a chief priority the senate president to fix a problem that is not broken?”

    As a journalist, please ask the sponsors of the legislation these questions and post their responses (or lack of response). That way, we’d have at least both sides of the story.

  8. Luis H. Santamaria | February 1, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Reply

    It is all part of this decay of our democracy being transformed into a “lobbycracy” which works for the interests of the plutocracy. We are in a terrible political aberration; we the common citizens vote to elect our legislators, them them as becoming elected they put themselves at service of the lobbysts who corrupt the whole process using the money provided by their master. In most countries this is named “Trafficking on Influence” and is illegal, here this was legalized by that horrible piece of legislation called “Citizens United” then rubber stamped by our Supreme Court. “LOBBYING, THE NEW NAME FOR RACKETEERING”.

  9. This whole mindset is the underlining current of “Lets make America White again”, by any means necessary and education is not off limits. But the good news is that the youth are not being bamboozled by this tactic.Recent events have shown that they are very articulate and understands thoroughly the subject matter at hand. What must be done is stop wasting your vote by not participating. Vote the scandrels out or God help us.

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