A bill was filed earlier this month in the Florida House that would alter the FloridaState University System by merging the two newest member institutions into the two longest-standing preeminent universities.
The independent status of New College of Florida and Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland would be revoked if the bill is passed. Both colleges are the newest addition to Florida’s university system, and they also rank No. 1 and No. 2 for cost-per-degree.
Lawmakers are pushing to make New College part of Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic part of the University of Florida.
FSU senior political science student Alana Dickey said, “I do not believe our school should take over their school or even combine; It wouldn’t give them an opportunity to grow and develop on their own.”
New College had just 724 students at the start of the academic year, which is small even for a liberal arts college. But its administrators have made it clear that they are opposed to the merger.
The school has been trying to grow its enrollment but has been unsuccessful. Instead, the student headcount has dropped in recent years despite state lawmakers allocating millions in recurring funds to hire more professors and expand academic programs in an effort to boost the student body to 1,200.
Both New College and Florida Polytechnic have been part of University of South Florida. New College was founded as a private school and brought into Florida’s university system in 1975 as part of USF. It became independent in 2001. Florida Polytechnic started as a satellite campus for USF before becoming independent in 2012. There has been talk of amending the bill to merge New College with USF instead of with FSU.
“We have a very large student body. Welcoming in more students doesn’t seem horrible but it would affect our campus in both positive and negative ways,” saidUSF seniorpharmaceutical science student Enosh Newby.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his opinion on the geographical fit for New College.
DeSantis said that New College and the University of South Florida, rather than FSU, would make a better fit geographically. New College, which is based in Sarasota, is 57 miles from USF in Tampa and 321 miles from Florida State’s campus in Tallahassee.
Tallahassee resident Ashley Foster said, “If Florida State combines with New College of Florida, it would hurt Tallahassee’s population. It is already overcrowded with the three colleges and residents in our area.”
According to Rep. Travis Cummings, the House proposal (HB 7087) is likely to be considered by the Appropriations Committee this week. New College President Donal O’Shea recently held a press conference to voice his opposition to the proposal.
Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.