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October 1, 2002

Contact: Bill Edmonds
Florida Board of Education
(850) 201-7130

Florida making progress, improvement in preparing students for college and university

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Education announced today that Florida has improved in key areas in Measuring Up, a national report card on higher education.

"Preparing students for post-secondary work and graduating more students with bachelor's degrees are high priorities of the Florida Board of Education," said Education Secretary Jim Horne. "Our goal is to have all students ready to continue their studies after high school."

The Measuring Up report, prepared by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, reports that Florida showed improvement in:

  • Preparing high-school students for college-level work: The percentage of students who graduate from high school or earned a GED by age 24 has increased, and is very high compared to other states, the study shows. The percentage of students who perform well on college entrance exams is also up, as is the percentage who do well on advanced placement tests (see Measuring Up, page 39). On Florida's own assessment of readiness for college, students have shown improvement for each of the last four years. Though the Measuring Up report contains almost no recent data on student achievement, Florida's own FCAT data have shown a steady, four-year increase in student achievement, with significant gains being made by minority students. In addition, the latest College Board report shows Florida is a national leader in increasing the number of students taking and passing advancement placement exams and earning college credit. This is a major indicator of college readiness.

  • Completion: The study calls Florida a "top performer" in the proportion of first year community college students who return for the second year. The study also notes a "very high percentage" of freshmen at colleges and universities in Florida return for their sophomore years. The Florida Department of Education's most recent data show a six-year graduation rate of 61 percent among students attending the state universities. Florida is a national leader on the six-year gradation rate, the standard measure.

  • Participation in college: The study showed a 1-percent gain in 18-to-24-year-olds enrolling in college (page 96). In addition to the study, Florida's own measures show that 52 percent of high-school graduates enter a community college or state university within one year. Fall 2002 enrollment in Florida's public universities has increased 7.5 percent for first-time-in-college students.

  • Benefits: As the study noted, "The proportion of Florida residents who have a bachelor's degree has increased" (page 39). "This bodes well for Florida's future," said Secretary Horne. "Our economy needs more students with college degrees, and our colleges and universities are responding to this challenge."

  • Affordability: As the study stated, Florida's poorest families now can dedicate a smaller percentage of their family income to pay for education at the state's lowest-priced colleges (page 39). Though the study was somewhat critical of affordability in other ways, it failed to note that Florida has one of the nation's lowest tuition rates. For 2001-2002, Florida ranked 48th in the country in regard to tuition and fees at state universities. Tuition and required fees for a full-time student for two semesters was $2,559, well below the $4,260 national average. The Measuring Up study also doesn't take into account Florida's Bright Futures Scholarships, which pays 100 percent to 75 percent of tuition and fees for qualified students. "In Florida, 150,000 college students enjoy Bright Futures Scholarships, which have made a college education much more affordable for them and their families," said Secretary Horne.