(1) The Degree Completion Pilot Project is established for the purpose of recruiting, recovering, and retaining the state’s adult learners and assisting them in completing an associate degree or a baccalaureate degree that is aligned to high-wage, high-skill workforce needs. As used in this section, the term “adult learner” means a student who has successfully completed college-level coursework in multiple semesters but has left an institution in good standing before completing his or her degree. The pilot project shall give priority to adult learners who are veterans or active duty members of the United States Armed Forces.
(2) The pilot project shall be implemented by the University of West Florida, acting as the lead institution; the University of South Florida; Florida State College at Jacksonville; and St. Petersburg College and shall include the associate, applied baccalaureate, and baccalaureate degree programs that these institutions have selected. Other partnering public postsecondary education institutions shall provide areas of specialization or concentration.
(3) For purposes of selecting the degree programs that will be given priority in the pilot project, the institutions identified in subsection (2) shall partner with public and private job recruitment and placement agencies and use labor market data and projections to identify the specific workforce needs and targeted occupations of the state.
(4) The pilot project shall provide adult learners with a single point of access to information and links to innovative online and accelerated distance learning courses, student and library support services, and electronic resources that will guide the adult learner toward the successful completion of a postsecondary degree.
(5) Beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year, the pilot project shall be implemented and must: (a) Use the distance learning course catalog established pursuant to s. 1006.73 to communicate course availability to the adult learner.
(b) Develop and implement an advising and student support system that includes the use of degree completion specialists, is based upon best practices and processes, and includes academic and career support services designed specifically for the adult learner.
(c) Use the streamlined, automated, online admissions application process for transient students established pursuant to s. 1006.73. The pilot project shall identify any additional admissions and registration policies and practices that could be further streamlined and automated for purposes of assisting the adult learner.
(d) Use existing and, if necessary, develop new competency-based instructional and evaluation tools to assess prior performance, experience, and education for the award of college credit in order to reduce the time required for adult learners to complete their degrees. The tools may include the use of the American Council on Education’s collaborative link between the United States Department of Defense and higher education through the review of military training and experiences for the award of equivalent college credit for members of the United States Armed Forces.
(e) Develop and implement an evaluation process that collects, analyzes, and provides to the participating postsecondary education institutions, the chairs of the legislative appropriations committees, and the Executive Office of the Governor information on the effectiveness of the pilot project and the attainment of its goals. Such a process shall include a management information system that collects the appropriate student, programmatic, and fiscal data necessary to complete the evaluation of the pilot project. Institutions involved in the pilot project shall also collect job placement and employment data on the adult learners who have completed their degrees as a result of the pilot project.
(f) Develop and implement a statewide marketing campaign targeted toward recruiting adult learners, particularly veterans and active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, for enrollment in the degree programs offered through the pilot project.
(6) For purposes of the pilot project, each institution’s current tuition and fee structure shall be used. However, all participating institutions shall collaboratively identify the applicable cost components involved in the development and delivery of distance learning courses, collect information on these cost components, and submit the information to the Florida Virtual Campus. The chancellors of the Florida College System and the State University System shall submit a report to the chairs of the legislative appropriations committees no later than December 31, 2013, on the need for a differentiated tuition and fee structure for the development and delivery of distance learning courses.
(7) The University of West Florida, in collaboration with the University of South Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and St. Petersburg College, shall submit to the chairs of the legislative appropriations committees no later than June 1, 2012, a detailed project plan that defines the major work activities, student eligibility criteria, timeline, and cost for implementing the pilot project.
(8) The University of West Florida, in collaboration with the University of South Florida, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and St. Petersburg College, shall develop and implement a transition plan that transfers the administration of the pilot project to the Florida Virtual Campus no later than June 30, 2013.