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Florida House Considers Merging State's Smallest Universities

Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. Photo: Creative Commons  / Ziggymarley01
Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. Photo: Creative Commons / Ziggymarley01

A bill moving through the Florida house would merge the state’s smallest universities into the University of Florida to cut education costs. Opponents of the bill say the move is facing push back from the universities and students.

The bill sponsored by Republican Randy Fine would merge Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland and New College in Sarasota with the University of Florida.

Fine said the state spends on average $28,000 per Florida university student. At Florida Poly and and New College, the state’s supplement is six figures.

“There are five or six kids in this state that don't get a college degree because of the amount of money that we're spending at these two schools," said Fine. "That's just not right.”

The bill also proposes changes to Florida’s Bright Future Medallion Scholarship, which would offer 100 percent tuition reimbursement to top recipients.

Opponents of the bill like Democratic House Representative Anna Eskamani said the universities and the students wish to remain independent and worry the move could limit access to education.

"I'm absolutely sensitive to the notion of wanting to reduce costs in our state. But I would argue there are so many other ways to reduce costs versus disrupting the educational opportunities for students and the careers of faculty,” said Eskamani.

The bill will appear at a House committee for debate Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. There currently is no Senate companion bill filed.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."