State officials meet on ‘Hill’

The Florida Board of Governors met at Florida A & M University Thursday to review several issues concerning college preparatory programs, university facility priorities and increasing medical retention among universities across the state.

Throughout the meeting, Monica Hayes, director of K-20 Office of Equity and Access gave an overview of the College Reach-Out Program, a college preparatory program for low-income students, followed by a review of several college board partnership activities that support middle school students.

Hayes spoke to members about the importance of mentoring students at a middle school level to help them transition into thinking about college before entering high school.

If Gov. Jeb Bush’s proposal to increase funding is approved in the Legislature, Hayes said students would benefit tremendously from the Access and Diversity Initiative programs beginning in middle schools.

Following Hayes, a panel discussion allowed representatives from the audience to speak about their experiences with several outreach programs.

Apolonia Villanueva, 19, a freshman social work student from Tampa, delivered a testimony about the benefits of Upward Bound, a state-funded program that provides opportunities for higher education.

“I am thankful that minority programs like Upward Bound exist to assist students like myself,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva, a member of the Upward Bound Program for four years, said that if it was not for the program, she would not have been able to attend college.

“They offered to pay for my application fees and my SAT and ACT testing, which allowed me to apply for college,” Villanueva added.

“One of the stepping stones that stood in my way, that tried to keep me from attending college, was not having the sufficient funds to attend.”

Villanueva said that when the time came she chose to rely on God, which she added is the reason she now attends FAMU.

Keneshia Grant, a member of the Access and Diversity Commission, said she could relate to Villanueva because she was a member of the College Reach Out Program and the first in her family to graduate from college.

“It’s always good to hear FAMU students come out and speak about their experiences to help bring life to what it means to come from a community where education may not be as important as other communities,” Grant said.

Grant continued by saying that as a member of the Access and Diversity Commission, her job gives her the opportunity to extend her personal experience to those on the commission.

The Board of Governors also reviewed the university facility project list.

For the 2006-2007 school year, FAMU’s Campus Electrical, Technology and Infrastructure Project ranked third on the list of priorities.

The Multi-Purpose Center Teaching Gymnasium and Developmental Research School ranked at 14th and 15th respectively, while the University Commons renovation and Jones Hall remodeling ranked as 26th and 28th.

Amanda Wilkerson, a senior political science student from Kissimmee, said she disagrees with the facility rankings.

“I feel as though the number one priority for this university is to make sure that the university is accommodating the students,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson added that she would like to see a project that would expand the student union building and one that would build the university around the life of the students.

“In my opinion, we are paying for services we sometimes don’t receive,” Wilkerson said. “The student union building should be the living room of this university and life of this university and, at times, it’s not always accommodating.”

The last item on the agenda of the Board of Governor’s was increasing funding for medical education among colleges and universities.

Dr. Troy Tippett, president of the Florida Medical Association, argued that the lack of medical residencies across the state contributed to many students’ decision to complete residency outside of Florida.

“In order to produce more physicians for the state of Florida, we need to purchase more residency slots to expand the number of residencies,” Tippett said.

In Florida, only 25 percent of physicians completed their residency training in the state, said Michael Whitcomb, senior vice president for medical education.

Across the country, Whitcomb said that a consensus from within the medical education community and among physician workforce analysts shows that the United States is facing a serious shortage of physicians.

Whitcomb said as a response to the shortage, the Association of American Medical Colleges has adopted a policy to increase enrollment by 15 percent.

Although, the Board of Governors agreed to continue to review the medical proposal at its March 23 meeting, Joe Goldberg, a member of the board of Governors remained optimistic about the Florida Medical Association existing proposal.

“I look forward to learning more about the medical proposal and the increases need to better medical students,” Goldberg said.

Contact Christina Hordge at