In less than a month, proposed bill HB 7087, which would merge Florida Polytechnic University and New College of Florida with UF, died in the Florida House of Representatives Friday.
The proposal was sponsored by Randy Fine, House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman.
Originally, the bill would merge FPU with UF and NCF with Florida State University. After a few amendments, it changed to suggest the merge of both the independent colleges with UF.
FPU is located in Lakeland, and NCF is in Sarasota.
In a Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Feb. 28, Fine said that making FPU and NCF independent were political decisions driven by powerful legislators at the time.
“Frankly, when we do things that are driven largely by politics, they generally turn out to be mistakes,” Fine said.
Fine argued the consolidation of the colleges would save money, but he did not specify the exact numbers.
The faculty, students and graduates of the two independent colleges did not agree with the idea of the proposed bill.
Donal O’Shea, president of NCF, said the plan was hastily conceived without proper study, discussion and public comment.
“New College is one of the best-valued colleges in the country,” O’Shea said. “It has achieved many marks of greatness since becoming an independent public college, but lumping it under UF will cause it to lose its special identity and its national rankings.”
Kyley Miller, an incoming NCF freshman, said the bill left too many questions unanswered.
“I wanted to go to New College because of its unique curriculum, but for it to be merged with another school, that’s not what I signed up for,” Miller said.
FPU spokesperson Lydia Guzmán said the merger bill would take away from the university’s distinguished curriculum.
“Each university offers something different,” Guzmán said. “Our university offers a very unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a curriculum that is 100 percent for STEM.”
Prior to becoming independent colleges, FPU and NCF were part of the University of South Florida.
Matthew Bermudez, a prospective FPU student, said he chose the university because of the STEM program and hands-on experience offered at the college.
“Having a school directly based on math and science was a big deciding factor for me, but if the bill (was) passed, the advantages of why I am going to Florida Polytechnic University would no longer be advantages,” Bermudez said.
The university would have worked with the governor, legislature and the rest of the State University System if the merge occurred, UF President Kent Fuchs wrote in an email.
“We remain focused on UF’s primary legislative agenda to bring resources to our existing campus and existing offsite locations... that will help the University of Florida earn sustained recognition as one of our nation’s top five public universities,” Fuchs wrote.
Florida Polytechnic University, located in Lakeland, will not merge with UF.