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Opinion
Longboat Key Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 3 months ago

My View: New College is a premier institution, let's not break it

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Bill in Tallahassee would make Sarasota college part of FSU system.
by: Sen. Joe Gruters and Reps.Wengay “Newt” Newton, Will Robinson, Margaret Good, Tommy Gregory and James Buchanan

Florida’s only Honors College, New College of Florida, is a beacon of shining success as an independent collegiate institution in Sarasota. It has been ranked at or near the top of college listings nationwide on multiple measurements: from academic achievement, to value, to Fulbright Fellowships, and many more.

A bill that has recently been introduced in the Florida House of Representatives, if passed, would merge New College into Florida State University. The reason? To increase efficiency and to combat the high cost of New College’s degrees.

As a delegation, we are committed to solutions that would reduce the unnecessary costs in state government that fall onto the burden of the taxpayer, which could include costs accumulated by our university systems. However, it is hard to believe that New College could be run more efficiently and effectively from a university that is based in Tallahassee, more than 320 miles away.

Since becoming an independent institution in 2001, the achievements gained by New College have been staggering:

  • 2020:  Ranked 35th in ‘Most Innovative Schools’ by US News and World Report
  • 2019:  ‘Best Value College’ by Princeton Review
  • 2019:  ‘Top 100 Best Value College’ by Forbes
  • 2019:  Ranked 6th in the ‘Top Public Liberal Arts Colleges’ by US News and World Report
  • 2019:  Ranked 23rd in ‘Best Value in Public Education’ by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
  • 2017:  ‘The Best 382 Colleges’ by Princeton Review and Top 15% of colleges named along with Harvard, Princeton, etc.

In addition to these unprecedented accolades, New College has become a top producer of students who earn prestigious fellowships. They have awarded 74 Fulbright Fellowships to their students over the past 15 years. That is more scholars per capita than Harvard and Yale.

The proposal to merge New College of Florida also includes folding Florida Polytechnic Institute, in Lakeland, into the University of Florida. The claim, similar to that of New College, is that it costs too much per student and is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer. However, these numbers do not factor the numerous awards that New College has accumulated and it is clear that the per-student value is considerably higher than the rest of the state’s institutions of higher learning.

Further, the New College’s $40.8 million budget makes up a miniscule fraction of the State University System’s entire $2.6 billion overall budget. The savings, whatever they may be, would be small to un-noticeable. The costs to the quality of the institution could be much more noticeable.

A significant decision, such as this, should require time, workshops, and empirical data to formulate the best solution for all parties. Like with any bill in the legislative process, it is imperative that we vet the idea in committee and allow all institutions and stakeholders to voice their opinions and concerns.

We stand together with New College as the Sarasota delegation to oppose this legislative, because it  would impact the lives of students, faculty, our community, and Florida’s ability to maintain a top tier higher education reputation on the global stage.

 

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