By Dean Kalahar
Every year students in Florida are being denied their education rights by the state university system. Throughout the state those who have followed the rules, worked hard to receive their A.A. degree, and believed that the education system would respect the law, will continue to have their civil rights violated. The statutes of the State of Florida, as well as the Florida Constitution are being ignored, and an investigation into this gross injustice must proceed immediately.
Florida has a program known as the 2+2 articulation system that connects the state community colleges with the state university system. Under the articulation agreement, students who attend and receive an Associates of Arts (A.A.) degree from a Florida community college are given a “seamless” transition into one of the eleven state universities “to facilitate efficient and effective progression and transfer of students between and among public postsecondary institutions.”
Section 1007.23 of the Florida Statutes, states that, “every associate in arts graduate of a community college shall have met all general education requirements and must be granted admission to the upper division of a state university except to a limited access or teacher certification program or a major program requiring an audition.”
According to the Statewide Secondary Articulation manual, “This “2+2” articulation system requires a commitment to mutual respect, equitable treatment of transfer students, and strong inter-institutional communication.” Sadly, the treatment currently offered is far from respectful, equitable, and open. In addition, the manual states “Students who graduate from a Florida community college with an Associate of Arts degree are guaranteed the following rights under the Statewide Articulation Agreement.” One of these rights is, “Admission to one of the 11 state universities, except to limited access programs.”
At issue is the fact that the university system is not following the articulation statutes and denying admission to qualified students in direct violation of the law. The system is either ignoring the law, or it does not have a system in place for finding appropriate university placement for qualified students. Whether out of ignorance to the law, as a result of unintended consequences in administering the law, or as a direct violation of state statues, the university system has acted inappropriately at best and unconstitutionally at worst. It would be wise to act quickly to remedy the injustice before a class action suit is filed by students who have been denied access under the law.
The typical response to the charges is to argue that admission is denied because the program is “limited Access,” or that the 2+2 agreement is only to ensure equal treatment with other students, not access. But whatever cognitive slight of hand is being used to avoid the situation, the law is clear in its wording. Even if the law says that a student will be guaranteed admission to (at least) “one of the eleven state universities,” the lack of articulation between the 11 schools in the application process prohibits a student --who may apply to all 11 schools-- from being placed.
The university system is ultimately in charge of the application and deadline procedures and is thus accountable to ensure placement of students who qualify. It is not the responsibility of the student to work through the maze of eleven universities to search for a school that will “guarantee” their acceptance. This would be against the spirit and letter of the law as written.
Lastly, the schools have set up appropriate barriers to make student eligibility for the 2+2 plan more difficult to meet. “Higher grade point average and/or higher test scores, additional courses or prerequisites, or auditions and/or portfolios.” Even with such strict pre-requisites, students who are meeting, or exceeding, every requirement are still being denied access to any program of studies, even if it is not the student’s first choice.
Article 1 Section 9 of the Florida Constitution states, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In this case, property includes a student’s right to their education. The Board of Governors of the State of Florida is in violation of this sacred trust. It is time to stand up for justice against the legal violations perpetrated upon the youngest adults of Florida.
Section 1007.23, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 6A-10.024, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.)/Board of Governors (BOG) Articulation Regulation
Notes: bold in quotes is by the author