Florida tries to save online education after Gov. DeSantis cut funding

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After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week eliminated state funding for online academic support services to colleges and universities, the State University System Board of Governors says it’s now working to keep “essential online and library services” afloat.

The governor’s veto of the Complete Florida Plus, a $29.4 million education program, in the state’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget means that critical online resources used by K-12 schools, colleges and universities across Florida, like the state’s database of online courses and digital textbooks, could be discontinued. But in an effort to save some of the most essential services that the program provides, the board of governors is now developing a plan to continue delivering those services to schools, a board spokesperson told EdScoop.

“In light of the veto of the funds of Complete Florida Plus, we are in the process, working with the Florida College System, of identifying the essential online and library services for both systems,” Renee Fargason, director of communications for the board of governors, said in an email.

Some of the services that Complete Florida Plus provides include degree completion assistance for adult learners, the state’s online catalog of distance learning courses and degree programs, online student advising services and online academic support services and resources. However, the board did not specify which services will be considered essential and said more details will be shared in coming months.

The Florida Department of Education, though, which oversees the Florida College System, is unaware of the changes being made to Complete Florida Plus, a spokesperson told EdScoop.

Until new funding can be found for these services, Complete Florida will have to survive on $9.8 million in reserve funding, the equivalent of about a third of its budget, according to UWF records obtained by Politico. But it is not known how long this funding will last or when new funding will be secured.