Senate Bill 540 is dead, the Polk State JD Alexander Center is safe, and Polk State College is victorious in securing funding for operational support this Legislative Session.
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed the 2018-2019 budget, which includes $2.5 million for Polk State College Access to Academic and Workforce Programs, used to fund operations at the Polk State JD Alexander Center, and $500,000 in recurring operational support that will allow the College to cut its advisor-to-student ratio.
“I am overwhelmingly grateful to the Polk County Legislative Delegation, Polk State District Board of Trustees, local chambers of commerce and business leaders, and members of the Polk County community for supporting our students and our mission to provide access to quality higher education,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Your powerful advocacy has ensured life-changing opportunities for thousands of students and Polk County residents, and will allow our institution to more effectively serve our great community.”
Senator Denise Grimsley called Polk State’s success “one of the great stories in this year’s budget process.”
“I am glad the Legislature and Governor Scott saw the same value in the college system and Polk State that we do here at home,” Grimsley said.
Senator Kelli Stargel echoed a similar sentiment.
“Polk State College is going to change forever the lives of many students that attend there,” Stargel said. “I am glad we were able to secure funding so Polk State College can continue to offer these great educational opportunities to students across Polk County.”
“I am glad the Legislature and Governor Scott saw the same value in the college system and Polk State that we do here at home,” Senator Denise Grimsley said.
By preserving $2.5 million for operations at the Polk State JD Alexander Center, the College is able to serve nearly 1,100 students — many who rely on Polk State’s presence in Lake Wales to obtain their higher education. The Center opened in 2009 and is ideally situated to serve residents of Southeast Polk County. With nearly 40 percent of the Polk County’s population classified as “transportation disadvantaged,” the Center is critical to the College’s mission of providing all of Polk’s residents with access to higher education.
Polk State will also benefit greatly from the $500,000 budgeted for operational support. This recurring funding will expand initiatives to improve retention and completion, such as intentional advising and the use of technology to track student performance – strategies that have proven successful with first-time-in-college students. Additional operational support will allow Polk State to cut its advisor-to-student ratio, and allow for ongoing investment in important technology.
“Funding for additional operational support will allow our students to have more meaningful, rather than transactional, conversations with advisors about their educational plans and career goals,” Falconetti said. “This funding will have a direct positive impact on our students and I could not be more thrilled.”
Members of the College community are also breathing sighs of relief because Senate Bill 540 did not make it through the legislative process. The bill would have negatively impacted state colleges by establishing baccalaureate enrollment caps, changing performance-based funding metrics, and placing restrictions on direct support organizations, among other things.
“This bill could have been detrimental to the College and its mission to provide access to affordable, quality higher education,” Falconetti explained. “Thanks to the understanding and support of local legislators and community members, Polk State and the Florida College System can continue to provide exceptional levels of services to students across the state.”
“I thank everyone for their continued support of Polk County’s local state college,” she added. “Polk State College has a prosperous year ahead full of opportunities for our students.”