New College Merger Moves Along In House

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY FEB 27, 2020

Despite a contingent of New College of Florida students, alumni and faculty making an impassioned plea for the school’s independence, the powerful Florida House Appropriations Committee this week moved forward with a plan to fold the school into the University of Florida.

It’s an issue that has united members of the Sarasota and Manatee County delegations, but the proposal moved through committee on a largely party-line 17-11 vote.

“The math just doesn’t add up and I don’t understand the rush,” said state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota. “If you think about what we’ve done in the last couple years merging affiliate campuses, without really providing good stakeholder input, it doesn’t project stability in Florida’s university system.”

All Democrats voted against the merger proposal, as did state Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud. He represents the Lakeland community where Florida Polytechnic University, another college that would be merged with UF under the bill, operates today.

Most Republicans on the committee, though, went along with a proposal from state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who argued New College costs the state six times per bachelor’s degree what it costs to get a University of Florida student through a four-year program.

Fine said it was purely numbers driving his push to merge schools, something he proposed less than three weeks ago after learning of the high costs of degrees. “It makes me look like a heartless guy,” he said, “but maybe I am.”

The sponsor did bring an amendment to allow UF and New College to negotiated a phased in merger.

New College has come under fire for troubles with enrollment. The college received over $10 million two years ago to boost its enrollment from the mid 800s to 1,200 students by 2023. Enrollment has dropped every year since.

Good argued the numbers look low now partly because New College just graduated its largest class ever. Supporters also noted the school graduates the highest number of Fulbright scholars in the state, producing twice as many per capita as Harvard University.

Students stressed the environment at the school is unlike any other in the state system, with managed assessments determining advancement instead of grades.

No Senate companion legislation has been filed regarding a university merger.

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