Wednesday, in the Education Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, PCB EDC 20-03 was passed. It’s a proposed committee bill aiming to, among other things, merge Florida Polytechnic University with the University of Florida.

The bill would also merge New College of Florida with Florida State University, make EASE grants need-based, replace the $300 textbook award for Florida Academic Scholars with a stipend based on the state budget, and would provide Florida Medalion Scholars with full tuition toward an associates degree at a Florida College System institution.

“We have an obligation as legislators and an obligation to the state to provide the best education we can to our students at the lowest possible cost,” said state Representative Randy Fine [R] as he presented the bill. Fine represents the 53rd district covering southern Brevard County and is the chair of the Higher Education sub-committee.

“We could educate 10 students at one of our other schools in many of these cases for what we are spending at these schools,” Fine continued after citing a 6.5x higher cost to taxpayers for a degree at Florida Polytechnic University compared to the University of Florida.

The merger, per an amendment, is scheduled for July 2020, just after the spring semester. The change would not affect the tuition rates of current Florida Poly students, who enjoy the lowest net tuition and fee rates in the state university system.

Florida Polytechnic University President Randy Avent speaking the Education Appropriations Committee meeting. Credit: The Florida Channel. Used with permission

University President Randy Avent during the meeting pointed out that the cost of attendance of Florida Poly is $8000 less than the University of Florida and that freshman applications are up over 50%, with deposits up 16%.

“Florida Poly is not expensive because it’s small; it’s expensive because it’s 100% STEM, and moving into the University of Florida is not gonna change that,” said Avent.

In a email to students, Avent noted that there is no matching bill in the state Senate.

Florida Polytechnic University released a statement opposing the possible legislation.

Respecting every taxpayer dollar and maximizing the impact of those dollars is clearly at the heart of this legislative proposal. But the facts and the truth show that every dollar at Florida Polytechnic University is already having a maximum positive impact. That’s why we respectfully and strongly oppose this unnecessary and unwarranted legislation. We stand behind the fact that we have accomplished, and continue to accomplish, great things as a separate, unique institution within the State University System. Florida’s future lies in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and Florida Poly offers a core STEM education available nowhere else in our state. In its young life, Florida Poly has been doing the job it was created for. Our projections show enrollment growth, and applications have nearly doubled. This university has a substantial economic impact for the benefit of all of Florida, and our recently earned ABET accreditation is a testimony to the high standards of our academic degrees. A recent study showed that Florida Poly grads can expect a return on their investment that is more than three times larger than the other universities in the system.  It would be a profound mistake, for our current and future students – and for the state of Florida – to diminish Florida Poly’s role in meeting this important state objective.

Florida Polytechnic University Statement

Update: 6:05 PM Updated with information from President Randy Avent’s email to students.

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Jason Chua is the founder and Editor in Chief of Layers. For questions, comments, or concerns about this or other stories, email or tweet @layers_media

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