College mergers steam ahead

New College would be merged with Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University with the University of Florida. (Photo: Capitol News Service)

By: Capitol News Service
February 19, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) — Plans to merge New College with Florida State and Poly Tech with the University of Florida are moving forward at the State Capitol, despite opposition from both schools being absorbed and indifference by those that would take them over.

New College supporters were in the Capitol Wednesday pushing back.

None of the four university presidents affected by the proposed mergers got a heads up before it was unveiled at a committee a week ago.

“It was a surprise for us to see the bill,” said UF President Kent Fuchs.

Publicly, the stated reason for the mergers is that administrative costs for both New College and Florida Poly are too high, something New College’s President Donal O’Shea disputes.

“It produces minimal prospects for savings, and the disruption is way more than the savings would justify,” said O’Shea.

And under a 2017 plan to grow the school by 50%, administrative costs would go down.

“This one says that the merger should take place by June 30 of this year, and you can’t do it that fast,” said O’Shea.

An honors college, it has produced more Fulbright scholars per capita than any school in the state.

“But it’s not cookie cutter and it doesn’t work in that sort of large research university model,” said Representative Margret Good.

Few lawmakers are willing to talk about the reason for the mergers on the record.

And one very high profile lawmaker who opposes the merger said that both schools should be worried.

Senate President Bill Galvano was surprisingly receptive of the idea.

"I am open to that dialog with the Speaker and Florida House,” said Galvano.

The Speaker of the House has been mum, but they are the only two with the juice to pull off such a high profile move with so little discussion.

New College currently has about 800 students.

In 2017-18, it was given money to hire 15 faculty and increase enrollment to 1,200 by the 2023 school year.

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