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Florida Will Keep 12 Public Universities For Now After Plan To Merge Florida Poly, New College Fails

A round, steel white building against a blue streaked sky
Robin Sussingham
WUSF Public Media

Florida will keep its 12 public universities—for now. Plans to merge Florida Polytechnic and New College of Florida into the University of Florida died Friday due to a lack of support in from the Senate.

Even though Senate President Bill Galvan previously expressed interest in the idea, House Speaker Jose Oliva says it was obvious there weren’t enough votes in that chamber.

“It’s a shame, but it’s the process,” he said of the House’s move to abandon the plan put forth by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Brevard).

Fine pushed the proposal to take away Florida Polytech and New College’s independent status over concerns about the schools’ costs. Both have far higher cost-per-degree to the state than other public universities. In recent years the Florida legislature has put extra money toward boosting New College’s enrollment with lackluster results.

Florida Polytechnic University President Randy Avent argued his school’s outsized cost-per-degree is due to the inclusion of construction expenses the school spent in its early years. It was created about six years ago and was a spin-off of the University of South Florida’s Lakeland campus.

Oliva, Fine and Galvano said a merger of the schools would save the state money, but there was never any financial analysis of the plan. Still, despite failing this year, the issue is likely to come back.

That’s one of those ideas whose time is going to come. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t today,” Oliva said. “If the only thing we were able to do is bring to light that that needs to be reviewed year over year, then we had a small success.”

The initial proposal pitched merging Florida Polytechnic into the University of Florida, and New College of Florida into Florida State University.