New College Caught Off Guard by Merger Proposal

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY FEB 13, 2020

New College of Florida officials say there were caught totally off guard this week by a proposal in the Florida House of Representatives to merge the state honors university with Florida State University.

“This is so new,” said Ann Comer-Woods, New College marketing and communications director. “We haven’t really gotten anything new or any level of detail.”

House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine introduced a measure this week to strip New College of its independence and also to fold Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. The Subcommittee advanced the legislation on Wednesday.

New College leaders, though, said the legislation was a poor move. Donal O’Shea, New College president, released an extended statement suggesting the bill had been drawn up nearly in secret.

“While I certainly respect the Legislature’s right to entertain and make these kinds of decisions, I believe that the State University System is stronger with an independent New College.  One of the system’s hallmarks is its diversity of institutions,” he said. 

“New College plays an important and unique role in this respect and, in fact, in the national higher education landscape. New College has consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts universities since becoming independent, second only to the nation's military academies. It offers unique opportunities for Florida’s students and fills an important need in our region. For these reasons, I wholeheartedly support New College’s continued independence.”

No companion legislation exists in the Senate to undergo such a dramatic change to the state university system. And notably, New College sits in the district of Senate President Bill Galvano.

But Galvano in a press gaggle on Tuesday did not dismiss the idea entirely, instead saying he was open to discussion with the lower Chamber.

"I saw the House put that out," he said. "I think it's worthy having that discussion and I'm open to that dialogue with the Speaker and the Florida House." 

O'Shea plans to meet with lawmakers on the proposal this week, including with Galvano. the college has also been sharing messages of support from political figures outside the Legislature, including U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who issued a statement this week supporting New College's continued independence.

Photo courtesy New College: First-year student orientation, August 2019.

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