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Joe Negron announces community college partnership pact

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Sen. Joe Negron announced Thursday that he has succeeded in brokering an agreement between the Legislature and the Florida College System in their ongoing conflict over the proper role and scale of Florida’s community colleges.

The deal — under the moniker of the “2+2 Program,” referring to the common course of study that includes two years toward an associate’s degree and two more for a bachelor’s — resolves a few major sticking points. They include enshrining the issuance of bachelor’s degrees as a secondary rather than a primary purpose into state law and going forward with an already-scheduled sunset of a prohibition on community colleges adding new four-year programs.

It would also change the name of the 28-member body back to “Florida Community College System,” pushing back against the schools’ encroachment towards a focus on four-year degrees.

“I would like to thank (FCS head) Dr. (James) Henningsen for his effort to reach this agreement. We have many excellent community colleges in Florida, including two of the past three Aspen Prize winners,” Negron said in the Thursday announcement. “I am confident our community colleges will continue to excel at their primary mission of facilitating Florida’s exceptional 2+2 Program as well as local workforce support.”

Negron, who sits on the Senate Higher Education Committee, has been at the center of a years-long squabble between the state’s universities and  community colleges about who can offer what in their respective course catalogs.

Community colleges, appealing because of their relatively inexpensive tuition and traditional focus on workforce-driven offerings, have begun to proliferate bachelor’s programs rapidly. Members of the State University System contend that that trend represents a redundant “mission creep” that requires limitation by the Legislature.

Thursday’s announcement augers the end of that particular food fight — for this Session, anyway.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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