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Editorial: Conversion of community colleges is not the answer

It seems that for the state of Florida, the ideal higher education model is one in which a community college education is the equivalent of a state university’s.

The state is looking into ways of not only making higher education more accessible to students, but making graduates better prepared for the workplace.

As a solution, a task force has been assembled — including USF President Judy Genshaft and 11 others — to come up with recommendations for the Legislature as to how to transition some community colleges into four-year institutions.

Ideally, these state colleges would offer bachelor’s degrees in areas of high need, such as nursing and education.

Genshaft believes these models could be successful and uses the partnership between USF and St. Petersburg College, which offers bachelor’s degrees, as an example.

But there is one valid concern that Susan Pareigis, president of business interest group Council of 100, brought up. She’s concerned that too many colleges offering similar programs may result in overlapping — that is, a bunch of colleges offering the same high-need programs without addressing still-prevalent gaps.

Universities across the state are in the middle of a budgetary crisis. University of Florida, Florida State University and USF have become more selective or even frozen admissions at previous years’ levels.

Consider that the honors program of Florida Atlantic University has seen a 17 percent reduction in its enrollment precisely because of its selectivity. The program has become so selective that it has lost students to more recognizable schools like Columbia and Yale University, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The state should look into ways of providing an education to its students by making its present system more effective, rather than temporarily patching holes.

Community colleges already serve the much-needed role of vocational institutions. Additionally, they help prepare students who might not have performed well in high school for coursework at a four-year institution.

That’s why it’s probably not a bad thing to have community colleges around — as community colleges, not financially-strapped institutions getting on an ill-thought-out bandwagon.

Offering more of the same degrees at more institutions is not a solution for education. The solution lies in solving universities’ budget crises so they don’t have turn so many students away and pressure them into getting an education outside of Florida.