Lake Technical Center one step closer to becoming a college

The Florida House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that would enable Lake Technical Center to offer college credit certificate programs, while also creating a process to offer associate in applied science degrees.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, filed HB 7057, which also has language that would allow the center to officially change its name to Lake Technical College.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, filed the companion bill, which has yet to pass the Senate.

While Diane Culpepper, director of Lake Tech, expressed enthusiasm for the bill, Lake-Sumter State College President Charles Mojock has his reservations. In particular, Mojock said he wants to make sure the programs offered at both schools would not be duplicated, which could be achieved locally through the collaborative efforts of LSSC and Lake Tech.

“There should be good planning — on the part of the tech colleges — that we are enhancing what is available and not just duplicating what is already there,” he said.

The college president also expressed concern about the transfer of credits for both the college credit certificate programs and associate of applied science degrees.

Rodrigues’ bill requires that tech centers meet the same standards for offering general education courses that are currently being met by community and state colleges.

“Because the tech centers are not regionally accredited, our accreditation body requires that each institution document independently that the credentials of the specific faculty member teaching the course we accept for transfer met our standards,” he said.

Mojock explained that the verification process is a time-consuming task that falls on the staff to complete.

Lake Tech is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education and the LSSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission.

“I don’t think it is a deal breaker,” Rodrigues said of the different accrediting bodies for each institution. “The standards being required are being met.”

Mojock said there are still complexities to sort out, which he believes can be done at the local level by working with Lake Tech; but statewide, it becomes more difficult when you can’t physically meet with every institution on the issue.

“While it is a good start to hold tech center faculty to the same standards that state colleges must meet, there is still uncertainty surrounding the issue of verification to ensure adherence to the standards,” he said. “For example, if a medical doctor goes to a medical center overseas and wishes to practice medicine in the United States, they would have to meet specific requirements and the comparability of their education would be verified prior to receiving a license.”

If the legislation passes, Lake Tech and LSSC could come to a determination about how many degrees would be transferrable.

But Mojock added that the AAS degrees are not transferrable unless an agreement can be worked out with the tech centers.

“It is still up to us to go through a process to evaluate the course and instructor credentials before we accept credit from a non-accredited institution,” he said.

While understanding the college’s concerns, Culpepper, said the college and tech center could work together to find a solution.

Even though both institutions are accredited by different accreditation bodies, Culpepper said both have very high standards.

“There are not many accreditation bodies approved by the Department of Education,” she said.

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