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Florida Polytechnic University could be brought into the University of Florida fold.

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Radical proposal would fold Florida Poly into UF, merge New College with FSU

The flagships would absorb the fledgling schools.

A plan put forward by the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee would hand the keys to Florida’s two smallest public universities over to the state’s flagship institutions.

The proposal (PCB EDC 20-03) would fold Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida while New College of Florida would become a satellite campus of Florida State University.

Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican, told Florida Politics that the mergers are aimed at reducing the cost of education at state universities.

“We have an obligation to taxpayers to generate degrees at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, degrees earned from Florida Poly and New College cost an order of magnitude more than they do at the other 10 universities,” Fine said.

Florida Poly, based in Lakeland, spun off from the University of South Florida in 2012 and opened for classes in 2014. New College, based in Sarasota, began as a private college before joining the USF system and ultimately regained independence in 2001.

Florida Poly has a total enrollment of 1,425 students while New College’s student body is in the triple digits, according to U.S. News and World Report. They are the No. 11 and No. 12 state universities by enrollment, respectively.

In fact, New College had just 724 students at the start of the enrollment year, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. That’s actually 151 fewer students than were enrolled the prior year.

The school in recent years has struggled to meet enrollment goals for growth each term despite the state budgeting for a plan to grow the student body to 1,200 students.

Under the proposed committee bill, the boards of trustees for UF and Florida Poly would be required to send a merger application to the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body for universities throughout the southeastern U.S.

Upon approval, all assets — including “property, licenses and associated revenues, existing contracts, unexpended balances, appropriations, allocations, funds, and mutually agreed-upon obligations, responsibilities, and liabilities of the Florida Polytechnic University shall be transferred to the University of Florida.”

The bill also states the “functions, offices, records, faculty positions, and staff positions of the Florida Polytechnic University shall be transferred to the University of Florida.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan stepped in to voice his support for New College remaining independent. The school is located within his district.

“I fully support New College’s independence and oppose efforts to merge this incredible institution with Florida State University,” Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said. “New College is a fixture in our Sarasota community with a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence. Why mess with a college that U.S. News and World Report ranks as one of the top liberal arts schools in the country.”

FSU and New College would likewise apply for a merger with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Notably, FSU already manages The Ringling, a Sarasota campus adjacent to New College that houses the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the FSU Asolo Conservatory.

Florida Poly’s and New College’s academic programs mostly overlap with those available at UF and FSU, with Florida Poly being geared toward STEM degrees and New College offering mainly liberal arts degrees.

The House Education Committee will hear the bill on Wednesday. But the bill immediately proved controversial. “It’s hard to take this wild proposal seriously,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat. “Were the impacted schools even consulted?”

The move comes shortly after the state consolidated University of South Florida campuses together shortly after satellite campuses in Sarasota and St. Petersburg received independent accreditation.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. RVR

    February 10, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    You’re sadly misinformed if you think New College’s academic program overlaps with any other school in Florida. It’s unique and considered Ivy league level education.

    • rob

      February 15, 2020 at 12:44 am

      lol nobody actually thinks new college is remotely close to an ivy.

  2. Robert Lincoln

    February 10, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    This proposal is aimed at killing innovation and punishing excellence. New College not only offers STEM degrees, it has the highest rate of admission to graduate and professional programs of any school in Florida;probably any school in the south. It’s the top ranked public liberal arts college hays not a military academy. Florida Poly has had a rough start but is also innovating.

    Putting these programs into Floridas largest, most bureaucratic universities would be a death sentence.

    • Tommy

      February 11, 2020 at 10:34 am

      I always cringe when someone qualifies anything, especially public domains, as “best in the South.” Doesn’t that suppose not better than the “North?” I’d rather put it, “Best in America” and compete with that supposition as a proud “Southerner” where excellence is not an after thought!

      Mr Randy Fine loss my support when he spoke of a priority and obligation to produce degrees as cheaply as possible. My sensibilities always puts our American competition and quality of product first; certainly ahead of budget considerations. Taxpayers of Florida didn’t become the # 1 University System in America by accident. We must work even harder to sustain the #1 status and continue to advance this ideal of being the best of the best!

  3. dave

    February 10, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Why not give Poly and New College back to USF where they came from?

    • Dan

      February 20, 2020 at 7:53 am

      I totally agree with this statement. Makes not sense geographically or logistically.

  4. Palmer Tom

    February 10, 2020 at 11:13 pm

    A lot more reporting is warranted instead of stenography. What is really behind this?

  5. Michael Armstrong

    February 10, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    “We have an obligation to taxpayers to generate degrees at the lowest possible cost. Unfortunately, degrees earned from Florida Poly and New College cost an order of magnitude more than they do at the other 10 universities,” Fine said.
    When New College merged with the State University System in 1975, it was acknowledged that the low student-faculty ratio would cost more. That is why the New College Foundation was created: To supplement the budget through donations, grants, and investment earnings from the foundation endowment.
    Education is not like a factory producing widgets, where the goal is to make widgets at the lowest possible cost. Some degrees will cost more. A quality education will be more expensive, but it benefits society in new research, technological innovation, and even intelligent Republican politicians like Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a New College graduate.

  6. SB

    February 10, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    As a New College alum, my BA degree took me to U Michigan, then to Stanford and Harvard. I received a unique, high quality education that set me up to compete anywhere, and chose New College over UF, FSU, and many others. A merger would be the destruction of something special and I hope it doesn’t go through, but if it does (*cringe*) I hope that care is taken to preserve what makes New College different.

  7. Kaz

    February 11, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Where is the i formation of n the rest of the bill? The part where for-profit “colleges” have an unending funding stream from public funds opened for them.

  8. Roberta Woody

    February 11, 2020 at 12:29 am

    This report leaves out the entire views of opposing opinion of the idea. Poly is making great strides towards becoming an educational landmark. The “degree at low-cost” argument is meritless.

  9. KBK

    February 11, 2020 at 12:57 am

    The absorption of FPU into the UF system basically means that they again failed to obtain their accreditation for their students degrees. The accreditation is important because this would allow their students to transfer to any other accredited university to complete their masters degrees or PhD degrees. Some employers won’t except degrees from a non-accreditated university. FPU will now use UF’s accredidation for their student degrees. Alexander failed FPU.

    • RRS

      February 11, 2020 at 6:48 am

      If it’s a question of accreditation for Florida Poly, and a question of funding for New College, why not establish a partnership between the two? Florida Poly benefits from NCF’s accreditation, and the two share resources and maintain their independent identities. There’s no need to yoke them to the larger institutions, no matter how badly FSU has wanted this for years, in NCF’s case. There are alternatives.

    • Gravu

      February 11, 2020 at 7:56 am

      FL Poly is SACS accredited and when I graduated from there they were nearing the end of getting ABET accreditation, I think they actually got it in 2019. That aside, I really hope they don’t merge my school with UF.

      • Heitor

        February 11, 2020 at 5:35 pm

        ABET accreditation happened last year, there was a big party and a lot of news about it. There’s been SACSCOC accreditation even longer than that.

  10. edna martin

    February 11, 2020 at 7:19 am

    the unique culture of the ringling museum was destroyed when it became part of FSU. Don’t let this happen to New College.

  11. Jordan

    February 11, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Poly(FPU) is ABET and SACS accredited… Where do you have your info from? Check your facts.
    Also Poly has the lowest cost of admission in the state? 😂 This is a joke and should be treated as such. I’m sorry but this makes zero sense for anyone…

  12. DC

    February 12, 2020 at 9:56 am

    FL legislators: “Hmmm, how can we impede the rise of the University of South Florida, and protect the sacred UF and FSU?”

    FL legislators: “Let’s take two independent systems that we’ve approved, that were once a part of the University of South Florida, and have them merge with UF and FSU, one apiece, making no historical, practical, functional, or geographical sense.”

    FL legislators: “Brilliant!”

    UF and FSU: “Hooray!”

    Florida Poly and New College: “Wait, huh?”

    USF: “What the heck?!”

    If mergers must take place, then Florida Poly and New College should become part of the USF system.

    • Dan

      February 20, 2020 at 7:56 am

      ^^^100% This^^^

  13. Cary

    February 12, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    FL Poly is LESS expensive for students than UF is. So that is false.
    FL poly is the only stem exclusive public state university in FL. Shouldn’t we be making it larger?? Certainly we shouldn’t be dissolving it!

  14. JH

    February 18, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Poly was FORCIBLY removed from the USF system by JD Alexander, a UF alumn. Faculty, Staff, and the students of USF Lakeland/Poly DID NOT want it to be removed

    People were warned that Poly would not be able to sustain itself. This was solely JD’s pet project.

    Many of us basically knew what was going to happen. Eventually Poly would need to be reabsorbed to one of the main universities, and being how the FL govt is mostly UF and FSU alumni they would do anything to keep the other universities down… which mean rather than give Poly back to USF which is located close by, they would instead chose the nonsensical path and give it to the much farther ways options of UF or FSU.

    New College was also part of USF and is close by both the Manatee campus and the main USF university itself. There is NO LOGIC to make it part of a university that is so much farther away.

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