Broward Community College president shares his vision for BCC and talks about the challenges facing higher education.
Q. You have been at the helm here for two years. As you look back over this short time, is there anything about BCC, or higher education in South Florida, that has surprised you?
A. I need to preface, I guess to put it in context, that I did come from California, and California for the longest time was recognized as the premier educational system in the country. Now, of course, it's slid down to who knows how close to the bottom. By contrast, I look at what we've inherited in Florida, and I think we're in some very exciting times.
Two years ago, when I arrived, I was very pleased to hear the governor, Jeb Bush, at that time talking about and recognizing the community college as a viable engine in economic development. And then I heard, soon after that, President Bush talking about the same thing. And so I've been very excited about the fact that community colleges are being recognized as a viable part of the economic engine.
Funding has remained pretty much flat. Even though they've talked about a 5 percent increase, or a 9 percent increase, that sort of thing; we're asking for 9 percent this year, but when you adjust it for inflation and the cost of living and all that, it's pretty much been a flat budget from one year to the next.
I think we've taken the necessary steps to pass on whatever costs are needed to be passed on to make it a quality education for the students. Enrollment fees have been increased the last two years in a row to the maximum of what the state can authorize us to, but that's just to maintain us on an even keel.
Q. You mentioned the governor's and the president's statements in support of community colleges. Have they delivered on those words with actions and dollars?
A. Well, they put their money where their mouths were in terms of matching dollars, for example. Any private dollars that we collect, there is a matching program. They've fully matched that program the past two years. We have done very well in the capital construction program, money for maintenance and new projects, renovations money. So we've been very pleased there.
They have not provided us the last two years with growth money. So any enrollment growth that we've realized has been sustained by the same dollars that are there to provide existing programs. That's not been as a good as we hoped. On a positive note, we haven't gone backwards. They haven't cut us. They haven't threatened to not fund programs. If anything they've been supportive, and given us at least as much or slightly more [year-to-year].
Q. The 2006 legislative session is coming up in Tallahassee. What are the community colleges asking from lawmakers?
A. We're asking for $54.5 million systemwide. That represents about a 9 percent increase. That would be healthy. That would allow us to continue the programs, as we've been able to expand them currently.
The exciting piece for us, though, in Broward, is that the chancellor has recommended $15 million in differential equity funding. What I mean by that is that in 1999, when the funding formula for community colleges was adopted, it froze in place the rates that were being charged by the colleges, across the 28 colleges. Now, the various colleges would charge a higher or less percentage of the enrollment fee that was authorized.
So the colleges that had been charging the maximum at the time, they were getting a higher reimbursement for their full-time equivalent students vs. the [colleges] that were not charging as much.
The plan was then that over a period of time, those that were receiving less than the statewide average reimbursement for every full-time equivalent student would get equalized. But that never happened. This year, for the first time in '06, [the chancellor] has recommended what he's called compression funding. That is to make up that disparity. So this $15 million is being earmarked to be allocated first and off the top to those colleges that are below the statewide average. That would gain about $3 million more for us, and for about seven other schools in the state. He's proposing to do that over a five-year period of time to get us up to that statewide average.
Q. Your predecessor, Willis Holcombe, was very concerned about keeping the open-door policy, the idea that every student would find a seat in a community college classroom, opened for all students. Has the open door closed or have you been able to keep it open?
A. Some of the colleges, and I don't think Broward fell into this, sort of took the political stand that if growth wasn't going to funded that they weren't going to bear the burden of additional students at the expense of the existing programs. Some schools intentionally limited capacity building.
So, the consequence of that is that students would apply, enroll and then found the classes full.
Broward never went as far closing the door. If there was a demand and a need, they found a way of shifting resources to accommodate where the growth was. What we did in the past year, when I first arrived, was to try to ascertain whether or not the door was truly open to all segments of our community.
In order to answer that question, we had to find out who is in our community and who is being represented in community college enrollments.
We looked at the latest data from the census figures from the federal government, county figures, municipality figures, economic entity figures, in-migration, out-migration, what kinds of students we were finding. We took that information and the profiles and compared it to enrollment data.
And what we found was a large in-migration of students primarily of South American descent who were in-migrating to Broward County and that were not finding their way to the entrance of the college. So we immediately set out to figure out what we could do to respond to that need, to the need of those students, and to open the door a little wider, if you will, to that population
Q. What is a hybrid course?