Governor: USF ‘more natural’ home for New College merger

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The Sarasota school was part of USF from 1975 until 2001.

Gov. Ron DeSantis won’t say just yet if he wants New College of Florida merged with a larger university. But he asked something many in the region have quietly pondered for a week and a half.

Why not talk about the University of South Florida?

“It seems like if you were going to do something like that, USF would probably be more natural just given the location,” DeSantis told reporters outside the Historic Capitol.

Since Rep. Randy Fine unrolled a radical proposal to fold New College into Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida, that has been a frequent question.

New College sits next to the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee, and both are part of the Cross College Alliance already allowing cross-registration and partnering on certain administrative goals.

And while DeSantis didn’t mention it, both New College and Florida Poly have been part of USF before. New College, founded as a private school, was brought into Florida’s university system in 1975 as part of USF and remained until becoming independent in 2001. Florida Poly started as a satellite campus for USF before being gaining its independence in 2012.

DeSantis said he doesn’t know FSU’s interest in the merger plan.

Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat pushing to retain the New College’s independence, said she felt FSU President John Thrasher’s testimony to the Legislature last week showed he was caught off guard by the plan.

All lawmakers in the Sarasota-Manatee area where New College is headquartered (with the extremely notable exception of Senate President Bill Galvano) have come out publicly in favor of maintaining the status quo with the school.

But many fighting fundamentally for the school’s independence suggest it made little sense to fold New College into Seminole Country. While FSU runs the Asolo Conservatory and manages The Ringling property next to New College, the main FSU campus sits in Tallahassee, roughly 300 miles away.

Fine, though, has asserted the school is not sustainable, and it costs more per degree to educate every New College graduate than it does at the larger institutions.

As far as that goes, DeSantis offered little solace for those seeking to keep New College a stand-alone piece of the university system.

“At the end of the day, we have a lot of good things going on with the universities, but we can’t necessarily be all things to all people,” DeSantis said. “So if there are ways to do it that are more efficient, I’m certainly willing to look at it.”

But he made a strong case to the Capitol Press Corps that USF would be a perfectly suitable home for the school.

“The engines for the state have been, of course, UF, FSU and USF,” he said. “I mean, USF is a top 50 university, and the fact that USF is anchored in one of our major metropolitan areas, to me I think means that they have potential to do a lot of great things in the future.”

Fine has said the greatest concern merging the two schools back into USF is the fact the Tampa-based university is in the midst of another consolidation already. Two branch schools that earned independent accreditation, including USFSM, are in the process of being reconstituted under a single USF umbrella.

DeSantis stressed the success of any merger depends fundamentally on how it would be done.

“So I’m not endorsing anything,” he said, “but I’m always open to ways that we can have the dollars go further, and that our university system is really fulfilling the mission that I think taxpayers want, which is to prepare these students to be able to be successful.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.


3 comments

  • Ward Posey

    February 20, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    The Governor is right

  • Bryan J Smith

    February 20, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    Even as an UCF graduate, with USF as our mortal enemy … they used to be part of USF. So why not back to USF instead? I’m honestly tired of the political BS going on in the Legislature and Capitol.

    It’s just like with the UCF opex for capex ‘scandal,’ of which UCF not only self-reported, but USF then self-reported (a lower amount), and then other universities ‘got quiet’ after both UCF and, to a lesser extend, USF were chasitzed.

    And all the arguments of ‘withholding’ funds from UCF ended up being one of the biggest hypocrisies of all. Because when UCF — once again — went under-budget with opex, what did the state say? Okay, just spend it on capex. Huh?!

    It’s like some well away from the ‘real world’ are making decisions based on a lot of non-sense. Even UCF and USF have been very, very frugal per-student cost-rate. I don’t understand this ‘default’ to UF and FSU.

  • Bryan J Smith

    February 20, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    Oh, BTW, ‘Fine’ was not only the ‘representative’ behind that too, but he was also behind shutting down UCF from getting the 3rd or 4th largest stadium deal. Over what? Oh, that’s right, the ‘special interest’ of various legislators tied to the insurance industry.

    At what point does the state now ‘pay’ for the ‘shortfall’ of UCFAA, Inc. — a private entity that is funded by 70%+ donations, revenue and other things (as UCF’s athletic fees make of a much smaller minority) — because of some ‘special interest’ of public servants?

    The whole reason UCFAA, Inc. came about was because a Florida grad was complaining about Title IX back when UCF spent only $1M on football, and didn’t even have enough money for 6-7 men’s sports, let alone she expected UCF to have 12+ women’s sports. So … the boosters ponied up, and that’s where UCFAA, Inc. comes from.

    At some point the state has gotta ‘stay out’ of things, at least when the athletic association takes $0 taxpayer dollars. If they want to go after FIU or USF who does take some funds from the taxpayers, fine. But not UCF, just like not UF or FSU — although at least UCF’s stadium wasn’t paid for by taxpayers, unlike FSU’s Doak Walker or — sadly enough — even the Citrus Bowl there in Orlando.

    Sigh … hypocrisy all around.

Comments are closed.


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