March 25, 2021 – The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 52, Postsecondary Education, by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers). The legislation makes a number of improvements to Florida’s postsecondary education structure, including clarifying state laws that secure tuition and fee waivers for students under the care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), increasing access to dual enrollment, and authorizing universities to create individualized bonus structures that recognize specific faculty and staff, among other changes.
“Whether they are in the custody of DCF, or living with a relative or foster family, students in the child welfare system have enough trials facing them as they enter adult life, and figuring out how to pay for college shouldn’t be one of them,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby). “Among other very important policy updates and enhancements, this good bill clarifies the intention of our existing fee waiver to make sure it applies to all eligible students, whether they enroll at a state technical center, college, or university before or after they turn 18 years old.”
“This comprehensive legislation addresses a broad range of issues related to higher education in Florida. Dual enrollment helps our students make the most of their high school experience with a head start towards earning higher education credits and credentials. We also increase access to dual enrollment opportunities for students in public, private, or home education settings, provide more options for teachers to complete their continuing professional development, and give the flexibility needed for the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program to better support students with unique abilities,” said Senator Rodrigues. “Our universities should be able to reward exceptional employees without being required to consider across-the-board bonuses. This legislation also authorizes universities to create individualized bonus structures for their best employees.”
Students in Department of Children and Families Custody
The bill clarifies that tuition and fee exemptions apply to a student who is currently in the custody of DCF or in the custody of a relative or nonrelative, or was at the time he or she reached 18 years of age. The exemption includes fees associated with enrollment in applied academics for adult education instruction and is valid until the student reaches 28 years of age.
Dual Enrollment Scholarship
SB 52 establishes the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program within the Department of Education to support postsecondary institutions offering dual enrollment. Beginning in the 2021 fall term, the scholarship is available to reimburse eligible public and private postsecondary institutions for tuition and related instructional material costs for dual enrollment courses taken by eligible private school or home education program students during the fall or spring terms. The scholarship is available for all eligible students to participate in dual enrollment during summer terms, beginning in 2022.
Early College Program
The bill changes the name of the Collegiate High School Program to the Early College Program and clarifies the program requirements. Specifically, this legislation redefines the program as a high school acceleration program for a cohort of students to enroll full-time in postsecondary courses in pursuit of an associate degree. The bill prioritizes courses that will translate into postsecondary general education core course credits, removes specified grade level and credit hour thresholds for participation; and clarifies that charter school students may participate.
State University System Employee Bonus Awards
The bill authorizes a university board of trustees to implement, subject to approval by the Board of Governors, a bonus program for university employees based on awards for employee work performance or employee recruitment and retention.
Professional Development for Teachers
SB 52 specifies that a public or private college or university with an approved teacher preparation program, in addition to an organization of private schools or consortium of charter schools that meets specified criteria, may create a professional development system that includes a master plan for in-service activities for teachers.
Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program
The bill provides the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP), which serves students with unique abilities, the flexibility to use grant funds to maintain existing programs. Specifically, the bill removes the restriction that FPCTP only use grant funds for start-up and enhancement costs, and replaces the FPTCP grant award cap with an amount determined in the budget.