[Editor’s Note: An abridged version of this letter was read on Tuesday, February 25th in front of the Florida House Appropriations Committee.]
Thank you, Chair Cummings,
We would first like to thank the Appropriations Committee for hearing us today. My name is Samantha Ashby and I am here with my companions as Representatives of Florida Polytechnic University Student Government Association. We are here today in official opposition to the bill HB 7087 in its current form. As you have discussed, a huge component in this bill is the proposed merge of Florida Polytechnic University and the University of Florida. We understand that the intent of the bill is to save money. However, we feel that this bill will decrease the quality of higher education by eliminating student choice.
When looking at universities I wasn’t initially planning on choosing Florida Poly. However, when touring the University it completely changed my mind. I found an opportunity to get a more personalized educational experience. From small class sizes with a max of 38 students, I found an opportunity to get a more interpersonal and hands-on learning experience. As a sophomore, I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects including designing a metal test specimen in a 3-D modeling software while computing the necessary calculations to write an analytical report. Projects and opportunities like this are core to our educational experiences and shape us to be prepared and sought after for internships and jobs. One of the students who came here with me today was even told by NAV air that he was chosen for the job because he came from a polytechnic university. They stated that students that came from polytechnic universities have both a theoretical and hands-on experience that would be beneficial to the company.
While the projects and research are a core part of our educational experience, another key piece is the services available and offered to students. There are not many universities that the Academic Success Center emails their students because they noticed they did unwell on a math exam. It is very rare to have a University see you as a person and not a number and that is an unreplaceable thing. As much as I would like to believe that this will not change, there are not many universities that have the opportunity or culture to drink iced tea with the university president after moving in right a question on your professor’s office 30 minutes before an exam and have them actually respond back to you via expo.
Lastly, a major factor in this bill is to save the state and taxpayers money. However, we believe that a merger should only take place on extremist cases and built off long-term plans. The proposed savings are $10-$15 million per year with the total operating budget is $4.4 billion, and given the speed at which this bill has progressed quickly students fear what our degree will say or how it will affect our plans of study. We shouldn’t have to fear changes to our plans of study. The associated cost of merging and the associated costs should be considered further.
Due to these concerns, we urge you to stand with us today as 250 students from our student population did at our Board of Trustees meeting today against this merger. We urge you to respect our choice when choosing Florida Polytechnic University as our choice for Higher Education.