Budget cuts prompt changes to CLAST requirements

As of July 1, college students in Florida no longer have to pass the state-issued and funded College-Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST) to be awarded an AA degree.

The CLAST was not funded by state legislation for the 2009-10 fiscal-year budget after nearly 25 years of implementation, putting the universities more in charge of requirements for graduation.

State universities are still required to have students meet the College-Level Academic Skills (CLAS) requirements, but the program is losing the “Test” portion, said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield.

“The T has been removed basically – there is no longer a test,” he said. “All baccalaureate graduates still must meet CLAS – without the T. Now, the way to meet that has been changed.”

In the past, students had three ways to meet the CLAST requirements, Besterfield said.

They could get a score of 500 on the verbal and math portions of the SAT or accumulate a 2.5 GPA in two required math and English courses. If they couldn’t do either, they had to pass the CLAST.

With the CLAST cut, universities have been given permission by the Board of Governors to temporarily replace it with the already existing College Placement Test (CPT) to serve as the third option, Besterfield said. If a student completes and passes the CPT, the state allows universities to waive his or her CLAS requirements.

Besterfield said this change benefits students and gives the University more leeway to evaluate its graduation requirements.

“In fact, when the faculty grants a baccalaureate degree and the student has completed all the major requirements, essentially we as a university have said this student has met college academic skills,” he said.

Besterfield said he thinks the CPT is a better test for a student to face.

“I don’t want to say it’s just an easier exam for them. From what I’ve seen of CPT, the equivalencies of it, let’s say for math – which is required – to an SAT 500 score for math puts our students in better shape,” he said.

The CPT as a third option is not a permanent solution, however, and universities are still trying to figure out how to fully evaluate their students based on CLAS requirements,
Besterfield said.

The state’s Articulation Coordinating Committee (ACC), which consists of both public and private education representatives, will meet in September in Tallahassee to finalize the long-term requirements for meeting CLAS.

Besterfield said he thinks the CPT test will probably be the long-term solution, but nothing has been set in stone.

USF is notifying students that they have to take the CPT in the same manner it did for the CLAST – through holds and e-mails.

“Basically what the state has said is, ‘In lieu of the CLAST test, let’s use the CPT,'” Bestefield said. “We will have to let students take the CPT exam, and then based upon their score grant them a waiver from the CLAS requirement.”