Bill to Wipe Out Two Bay Area Colleges Passes Committee

TALLAHASSEE -- New College in Sarasota perpetually ranks as a "best value" among universities for its liberal arts curriculum and relatively low tuition. But that hasn't stopped a lawmaker from Florida's east coast from trying to take its independence, along with another state university based in the Tampa Bay area.

Rep. Randy Fine's bill would merge New College into Florida State University, based more than 200 miles away in Tallahassee, and Florida Polytechnic, based in Lakeland, into the University of Florida. The House Education Committee approved the proposal Wednesday. Fine says the two relatively small schools cost too much to operate as standalones.

"As we discovered in our committee, the cost of providing an education at Florida Poly and New College is an order of magnitude higher than it is at our other schools," Fine said.

Florida Polytechnic president Randy Avent says that STEM students are often more successful than their counterparts at larger schools, because of the opportunity for "hands-on learning."

Florida Polytechnic was created by the legislature in 2012, in a controversial move in which Polk County lawmakers amputated the institution and some cash from USF. It has a student body of just over 1300 students.

New College of Florida, in Sarasota, became a member of the state university system in 2001. Before that it was also part of USF. It has a student body of around 800.

If signed into law, the mergers would take effect by July 1st, 2020.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Photo: Getty Images

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