Two small independent universities in Florida could potentially merge with the state’s two largest universities, as a result of a bill being brought through the House.
The bill proposes merging The New College of Florida in Sarasota with an enrollment of over 850 students with Florida State University.
Florida Polytechnic University, a university in Lakeland with an enrollment of less than 1,300, would merge with the University of Florida as a result of the same bill.
According to the proposal PCB EDC 20-03, all property, revenue, existing contracts, existing funds must be transferred from Florida Polytechnic University to UF. All offices, records, faculty and staff positions will also be transferred to UF.
Tuition for students currently enrolled at either college will remain the same until they graduate.
The proposal also states it will be the responsibility of Florida Polytechnic to get permission of their donors to implement a plan to transfer donated assets, which were intended to enhance the Polytechnic campus, to the University of Florida.
The proposal generated some opposition among the two colleges’ supporters.
“We respectfully and strongly oppose this unnecessary and unwarranted legislation. We stand behind the fact that we have accomplished, and continue to accomplish, great things as a separate, unique institution within the State University System,” said Lydia Guzman, Florida Polytechnic University Director of Communications, in a statement on the school’s website.
Zaccaria-Mcgrath Patricia, whose son is a Freshman at Florida Polytechnic University said, “What enrages me the most is that they are not looking at the quality of education that Florida poly provides.”
“They are mixing apples and lugnuts. The two schools are not even in the same league. We aspire to become the MIT of the south. They [UF] aspire to have a winning football team,” Patricia added.
Guzman said that the school had only learned of the proposed legislation late Monday, along with the rest of the public.
That sentiment was echoed by President of the New College of Florida, Donal O’ Shea, in a message posted to the school’s Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.
“No one outside of a small group in the House knew anything about this. As best we can tell, it was drafted without knowledge or input from any of the affected universities or members of the Board of Governors. There is no companion bill in the Senate, and that chamber seems to have been caught unaware, too,” she said.
O’Shea called for the New College to remain independent, as the school has “consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts universities since becoming independent, second only to the nation’s military academies.”
Guzman said Florida Polytechnic University’s projections show enrollment growth and applications they have received nearly doubled.
“Florida’s future lies in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and Florida Poly offers a core STEM education available nowhere else in our state. In its young life, Florida Poly has been doing the job it was created for,” Guzman stated.
The proposed legislation is set to be heard by the House Education Committee at 10 a.m. today.