Planning for SCF's Future

Guest Correspondence

Earlier this fall, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of this region’s oldest and largest higher education institution, the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. While we honor the past of our college, it is exciting and important to look to its future.

Just before that anniversary date in September, we completed the purchase of a 74-acre parcel of land in Parrish as a future site for a college campus in east Manatee County. This parcel of land is directly across Erie Road from the site for the next Manatee County high school, North River High School.

The opening of the Fort Hamer Bridge this month will greatly increase access to this rapidly developing area for our east Manatee County residents. Our data demonstrates that we are drawing students from this area and that there is a significant youth population developing in Parrish and Ellenton.

A Parrish-area campus would be the third expansion in the college’s history. As in previous forays into South Sarasota County and Lakewood Ranch, this new acquisition is created by a combination of philanthropy and state funding. At every step, SCF’s growth has reflected the generosity and commitment of our community to providing higher education wherever our students live and work.

This acquisition is a major step toward achieving Strategic Priority No. 1 in the college’s 2015-2020 Boldly Engaging Strategic Plan to “ensure that SCF programs are available to students in all geographic locations of our service area,” and more specifically, to “increase SCF’s physical presence in the rapid growth area east of I-75 and north of the Manatee River.”

In writing this column, I reflected back to my 2013 inaugural address as the President of this college:

“You might wonder about forecasting 20 years in the future when we have pressing immediate deadlines and priorities. Consider this: The sole reason we are able to be here today (on the Bradenton campus) is because in 1957, people were passionate about bringing college education to this community.                 

We were able to invite Gov. Bob Graham to the grand opening of our Venice campus in 1985 because 15 years before that, people in south Sarasota County saw a need and worked diligently to meet that need. We could celebrate our first building in Lakewood Ranch in 2003 because years earlier, leaders saw the growth out east and stepped up to fulfill our mission and provide college education for the young people and adults in that area.

For tomorrow’s promise to be met, it is incumbent on us to create the vision and plan today. Looking back at our great heritage is an exercise in nostalgia unless we honor the work of our founders by paying it forward, just as they did for us. Education is about the future. We often don’t get to see the fulfillment of our labors. But that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility. The time to plan for the College of 2033 is today.”

We won’t break ground tomorrow on a new Parrish campus, but we have set the conditions for the future. If we do not take these steps today when the conditions are right, we limit the SCF of tomorrow from being able to grow and adapt with our community.

Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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