Florida is hoping to make post-secondary education more accessible.
Gov. Ron DeSantis approved HB 7071, a law which intends to increase the number of Floridians who have some sort of high-value credential or post-secondary education before they enter the workforce, last Monday.
The number of Floridians currently in the workforce who have some sort of degree or credential is 49 percent, said state Rep. Amber Mariano, of Hudson, one of the bill’s sponsors who was elected in 2016 while she was still in college herself. The goal of the law is to raise the percentage to 60 by 2030, and it went into effect on July 1.
“It’s about making sure our students are ready for the workforce no matter what pathway they choose to take whether it includes college or not,” Mariano said.
One way these goals will be achieved is by encouraging industry leaders to work with educators when creating curriculum for new and existing educational programs, she said.
“The goal is to increase collaboration between employers and educators,” Mariano said. “Instead of just having educators map out the programs we need, we have to make sure the industry is also telling us what type of jobs are available and what type of skilled workers they need.”
The bill will encourage this collaboration through the establishment of the Talent Development Council, Mariano said.
The Talent Development Council is a rebranding of the Higher Education Coordinating Council that will bring more industry leaders to the table when setting goals and creating new programs.
Mariano said the bill will also increase the funding for computer science education and apprenticeship programs that can give students a direct pathway to a career after graduation.
Samantha Sexton, UF’s Director of Government Relations, said the part of the bill that will have the biggest effect on UF is a new program it will establish through the Board of Education called the Last Mile College Completion program.
The Last Mile program is designed to help students who never completed college and are within 12 credits of completing their degree. Sexton said the Department of Education’s application will help these individuals get financial assistance and match them with a college best suited to their specific needs.
Sexton said it’s hard to tell this early on what other ways the bill may affect UF, but the university is in full support of it.
“We’re always supportive of any program that encourages students to attend a higher education institute,” Sexton said. “We hope this program will help give more students access to higher education.”