House Bill 7087 proposing to merge NCF with UF ends

House Bill 7087

A state bill in the Florida House of Representatives that proposed to merge both New College of Florida and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. The bill was effectively terminated on March 6, 2020.

Community Updates

March 6, 2020, 8:30 p.m.

Dear Members of the New College Community,

Minutes ago, Speaker Oliva declared that the merger provisions in House Bill 7087 would not go through this legislative session.

I am thrilled and beyond grateful to so many.

Thanks to President Galvano and Speaker Oliva for hearing our concerns and giving New College of Florida the opportunity to increase our enrollment and decrease the cost per degree by 2024.  Thanks to our bipartisan legislative and congressional delegations for working together and standing up for New College. Thanks to our team in Tallahassee, Capital City Consultants and Sachs Media, who remained steadfast in advocating that New College remain an independent university.  Thanks to the Board of Governors, our colleagues in the State University System, and to all the media, groups, and people in our region who wrote and called to support an independent New College.

Massive thanks to all of you — students, staff, faculty, alumni, trustees (current and former), and foundation board members (current and former) — who rallied, testified, and advocated for this extraordinary institution.

New College of Florida holds a special place in the State University System.  Once Session ends and the dust settles, we will get to work right away to address the concerns of the Legislature.  We will increase our enrollment and graduation rates, thereby decreasing costs and securing our place among the nation’s greatest educational institutions, public or private. Our state, our region, and our students deserve nothing less.

Have a great weekend,

Don

March 6, 2020, 5:10 p.m.

Dear Members of the New College Community,
At 3:11 PM today, House Bill 7087 was temporarily postponed on the House floor without any consideration or questioning by members of the full House. Given how late in the day and how late in Session we are, this makes it less likely that the bill will pass the Legislature before March 13th.  So this is encouraging, although things could still change.  Hopefully, we will know more on Monday. 
Don

March 4, 2020, 6:11 p.m.

House Bill 7087 was put on the House Special Order calendar Friday, March 6.  This means that the bill will be discussed on the floor, and the bill’s sponsor, Chair Fine, will take questions and answers on it.  Representative Good proposed an amendment early this afternoon (Wednesday, March 4, 12:40 PM) calling for a study to be undertaken by the Office of Program Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) to examine the need for the proposed mergers and the impact on students.  That report was to be submitted by January 1, 2021, after which the Boards of Trustees of the affected institutions were to take appropriate actions and work out plans.  At 3:51 PM, Representative C. Smith proposed an amendment to bring both Florida Polytechnic University and New College of Florida under the University of Central Florida. (Presumably, he was taking a page out of Jonathan Swift .)  At 3:55 PM,  just before the 4:00 PM deadline for amendments, Chair Fine proposed an amendment making technical changes, but still calling for New College to be acquired by UF. Following the questions on Friday, the bill will go for a second reading, followed by a third reading to be voted on by the full House on Monday, March 9.  Following this, it will be sent to the Senate.   As I mentioned before, the House has the votes to pass the bill.  So our strategy is to focus on the Senate.

So, please write (respectfully) to members of the Senate representing you.  We’ll have more information about that soon. Of course, it would not hurt to write (again respectfully) to members of the House in your district – you might change a mind.

Don

February 28, 2020, 5:06 p.m.

Dear New College community:

Our Board of Trustees issued a statement today (see below) urging the state legislature to continue to abide by its original decision in 2001 to establish New College of Florida as an independent institution within the State University System. The Board encouraged the legislature to maintain New College’s independence in order to continue “providing a unique educational alternative to Florida’s large, comprehensive university settings.” As we know, there is no other school like us in the entire state of Florida. This week, I have also been heartened by public support for New College from the Sarasota County Commissioners, Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and members of our local delegation.

I also appreciate the 35+ students who volunteered to travel on a bus to Tallahassee from New College this week to express their opposition to this proposed merger with University of Florida.  The students who did decide to go anyway were terrific, and wonderfully represented themselves and our school.

The full house vote has not yet (5:06PM Friday) been scheduled. As I mentioned earlier, we will focus our resources and efforts on the Florida Senate, which should be more receptive to our goal of retaining New College’s independence.

We have a number of editorials in local and regional papers coming out over the weekend.  At every public event to which I’ve been this week (and it has been a lot), the support for and independent New College has been overwhelming.  I have been deeply inspired by the enormous show of support for New College by our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and community members.

Have a great weekend.
Don

Statement from New College of Florida Board of Trustees

We, the Trustees of New College of Florida, fully support the 2001 decision of the Florida Legislature that Floridians are best served by maintaining New College as an independent institution within the State University System. We believe New College has clearly demonstrated the wisdom of that legislative action over the course of decades and that New College has fulfilled its mission as the Honors College of Florida with distinction. We strongly oppose any proposals that would reverse the proven course set by the Florida Legislature.
New College has enhanced Florida’s educational ranking beyond expectations and has only been able to do so as an independent institution. The national recognition Florida has earned for its higher education would be threatened should New College be made a part of another university. A sample of national achievements earned by New College of Florida includes: 

  • Ranked among Top 6 public colleges in the United States by U.S. News & World Report for 15 consecutive years
  • #1 public university in the United States for the percentage of graduates who go on to earn doctoral degrees in science and engineering
  • Producing more than 17% of the State University System’s Fulbright scholars despite having only 0.3% of the System’s enrollment, making it the highest per capita producer of Fulbright scholars in the state.
  • Ranked among the Fiske Guide’s 2019 Top 10 list of “Best Buy” public colleges in the nation for academic quality and affordable cost.

The New College Board of Trustees has received the clear message from the communities we serve that proposals to eliminate the independence of New College are highly unpopular. Members of the public have raised serious concerns as to how the New College mission could be sustained if it is merged into a larger institution whose student bodies are almost 70 times larger than New College and administered centrally from a location remote from the community. Public concerns are compounded by the lack of any documented benefit. The New College of Florida budget is just 0.72% of the entire State University System budget. The costs of merger and the number of years it would take to recoup such costs against undocumented cost savings provide no clear financial benefit. We do know that calculations of New College’s cost per degree are highly unreliable, as our costs for primarily four-year undergraduate degrees are compared with institutions with large proportions of one-year master’s degrees and two-year state college transfers.
While there is no clear benefit to removing the independence of New College, the damage is becoming increasingly clear. New College currently holds more applications for admission than our 10-year average, but parents and students now have cause to question their preference to attend New College. The New College Foundation has increased its assets supporting New College in recent years and launched several donor campaigns to further enhance our public funding, yet donors are unclear as to their future course. The impact on employment recruiting for quality faculty, administrators, and staff is an increasing concern. It is urgent that these proposals to remove independence be quickly rejected to limit continued and unwarranted damage to New College.
We firmly believe that New College must remain independent in order to fulfill its mission and goals within the State University System. New College retains outsized talent that would otherwise be lost to Florida, and it does this by providing a unique educational alternative to Florida’s large, comprehensive university settings. Florida should not give up the successes it has earned by having an independent New College of Florida.
Signed with the approval and consent of the New College of Florida Board of Trustees,
Felice Schulaner
Chair
 

February 25, 2020, 8:21 p.m.

Dear New College community:

At their meeting today, our Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed New College’s continued independence as a higher education institution. I am grateful for our Board’s ongoing support of our school, especially during this tumultuous time of merger discussions in the State Legislature.

As expected, the House Appropriations Committee has just voted to send House Bill 7087, which proposes to merge New College with the University of Florida, to the full House of Representatives for consideration. I appreciate the tremendous commitment of students Sofia Lombardi, Leonor Munoz, Daria Paulis, Jacob Wentz, Anna Lynn Winfrey, and Ellie Young who traveled to Tallahassee today with Professor Matt Lepinski and alumna Wesley Beggs to share their stories with the House Committee prior to the vote.

I will be returning to the State Capitol, this time to encourage members of the Senate to support New College’s independence. If the Senate, which is led by President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), opposes the House bill, the proposed merger legislation will be halted. We will continue to watch this bill closely and speak with legislators about the importance of New College to the State University System of Florida.

Best,

Don

February 21, 2020, 4:52 p.m.

Dear New College community,

Thank you for your tremendous display of support for New College’s continued independence during yesterday’s rally on ACE Plaza. I was deeply moved by all of the students, faculty, staff and alumni who came out to advocate for New College in such a visible way. You are the faces and the stories of this great school!

Support for New College in our region continues to swell as individuals realize that House Bill 7087 has traction in the House.  The situation continues to be fluid as the bill moves through the legislative process.  The House just moved an amendment to the bill that would merge both New College and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. It will now go to the House Appropriations for a vote on Tuesday.

Given the fluidity, our lobbyists are strongly recommending that we focus our efforts on the Senate. They believe that the Senate will be a far more receptive audience, and that our presence there will be much more influential that before the House.

I have already met with five members of the House Appropriations Committee, who will be voting on the bill on Tuesday. I plan to speak with more legislators in the coming days. Thank you again for all of your advocacy on behalf of New College.

Best,

Don

 

February 19, 2020, 9:37 pm

Dear Members of the New College Community,
This morning, I joined with members of our local legislative delegation for a press conference at the Capitol to encourage legislators to vote against House Bill 7087, which would merge New College with Florida State University. Representative Margaret Good gave an impassioned defense for the independence of New College and its value to students and the state. Representative Newt Newton talked about our efforts to reach out to students of lower socioeconomic status. Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith came out and stood with us.
I made a statement arguing against the house bill. (Please see below). We were joined by alums in the Tallahassee area, and by some parents of current students. (Thank you, thank you). There were a *lot* of press present, and they had a great many questions — they were well informed and trying to figure out what was driving the bill.
Our lobbyists and I met privately with most of the other members of our local delegation, including Representatives Will Robinson and James Buchanan and Senator Joe Gruters. All of them expressed their opposition to the bill, and our local delegation penned a wonderful joint editorial that appeared in a number of local newspapers. By the way, check out a hilarious cartoon by Bill Day in Florida Politics that says it all. We also met with former House Democratic Leader, Representative Evan Jenne, who is squarely on our side, and with Representative Tom Leek, chair of the House Public Ethics and Integrity Committee, who was pleased with the information that we shared with him about New College.
Our last appointment of the day was with Senate President Bill Galvano, who has been a staunch supporter of New College in the past. He acknowledged that we made a number of strong points for continued independence and that he has been pleased with the expression of support for New College coming from the local community. However, he stated that our small size draws heightened scrutiny from the legislature, and that our enrollment must grow to make our costs to the state sustainable. I pointed out to him that the current uncertainty about our status makes our recruiting efforts more difficult.  So please keep writing — respectfully — to him, and urge others to do so as well.  Also please encourage our other local legislators to support New College.
All in all, I’m where I was last night: Hopeful, but uncertain where we will end up.
I’ll see many of you tomorrow.  Thanks for your support of our wonderful institution.
 
Don

President O’Shea’s remarks at press conference on 2/19/20, 9:37 p.m.

Good morning.  I am Donal O’Shea, and I have the great privilege of serving in my eighth year as President of New College of Florida.
In that time, I have come to appreciate what a unique, inspiring, and rewarding experience New College offers to its students. Many of them go on to do great things, making our state and our world a better place. And though our numbers are small, our impact is great.
We are here today to voice our opposition to a legislative proposal that would fold New College into the far larger institution of Florida State University.
Now in its 60thyear, New College is unique within Florida’s state university system, offering a small, challenging, individualized liberal arts education. New College’s unique curriculum doesn’t fit within Florida State or any other large university, and folding it into FSU would compromise its special value and leave Florida with nothing like it.
The idea of blending New College into a larger university has already been tried. New College previously was a part of the University of South Florida, but our state leaders recognized that the arrangement hindered our mission as the state’s designated Honors College.
The Legislature established New College as a stand-alone institution in 2001, and that wisdom was rewarded almost immediately. The year after it became independent, New College was recognized as the #1 public liberal arts school in the country – and it has not stopped excelling since then. In the last 15 years, New College students earned 74 Fulbright Fellowships – more than Harvard and Yale – and ours is the #1 public college for the percentage of undergraduates who go on to earn PhDs. We continue to rank among the top public schools by such authorities as U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Forbes, and the Princeton Review.
This legislative plan is proposed to save tax dollars – but the truth is, it carries only minimal prospects for savings. In reality, it will cause more disruption than any savings might justify, while threating the very things that make our school so appealing to applicants.
New College represents less than one percent (0.72%, to be precise) of the entire State University System budget. Even if merging New College into FSU would produce some administrative savings – which so far has not been shown – it would be microscopically insignificant.
With the FSU campus located here in Tallahassee, more than 300 miles from New College, a local administrative structure would still be needed for our school. Most likely, it would not be altogether different from the current structure – yet the various costs associated with such a transition would be substantial and disruptive.
Most of our students would not have applied to New College if it was a satellite campus of FSU, or any other large university. They would have applied to a liberal arts college in another state, and that talent would have been lost to Florida, now and after graduation.
New College is doing well in its mission on behalf of the State of Florida. Applications are up 30% over this time last year, but news about this pending takeover is causing students and parents to rethink their plans.
New College has achieved many marks of greatness since becoming an independent public college. Lumping it under FSU will cause it to lose its special identity and its rankings, and I believe this is something the State of Florida cannot afford.
Thank you.
 

February 18, 2020, 10:13 p.m.

Dear Members of the New College community,

I spent today (Tue) in Tallahassee meeting with state legislators and advocating for New College’s continued independence. Our lobbyists and I met with Representatives Cory Byrd (R), Holly Raschein (R), Barbara Watson (D), and Carlos Guillermo Smith (D), and with Senators Kathleen Passidomo (R) and Kelli Stargel (R).  I heard general support for the loan changes in the bill, but far less support — and plenty of opposition — for the merger of New College into Florida State University. I also spoke with Syd Kitson, the chair of the Board of Governors, who is skeptical of the mergers proposed in the bill.

Given the opposition, I emerged from the day somewhat more optimistic about our continued independence.  But much could happen between now and the close of session on March 13.

There is still some fluidity in the press conference that our local Sarasota-Bradenton delegation called tomorrow at 10 am in the State Capitol. It will happen, but it is less clear who from our local delegation will be there.  I intend to go.  But it does not seem worth traveling from Sarasota to here to attend — big thanks to those who were willing to make the trip.  Thanks, too, to all those with a New College connection in Tallahassee who will be joining us at the conference.

I have meetings with another half dozen legislators tomorrow (Wed), and will report on them later.

All best,

Don

February 17, 2020, 2:55 p.m.

Dear Members of the New College Community,

Thanks to all of you for contacting our legislators in the Florida House and Senate to express concerns about the impact of House Bill 7087 on New College of Florida. And thanks for encouraging neighbors, friends, business folks, acquaintances to do the same.  I have reached out personally to our local legislative delegation, the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and our partners in the Cross-College Alliance to ask for their support of New College’s efforts to remain an independent institution within the State University System.

I will be in Tallahassee tomorrow and Wednesday to meet with individual legislators to make our case for New College’s value to the state system. State Representative Margaret Good, State Senator Joe Gruters, and U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan have already made public statements supporting New College.

This plan to merge New College with FSU has been hastily conceived without proper study, much less discussion or public comment.  It relies on limited data and analysis, and does not take account of the unique role that New College plays. The nonpartisan group, Taxwatch, points out that it is not even clear that the merger would save money.

It has taken 60 years for New College to achieve its current level of accomplishment. We produce an outsized proportion of the state’s scientists, Fulbright scholars, and doctoral recipients, and graduates that occupy the top rungs of their professions. I will urge the state Legislature to slow down its inexplicable rush to move forward with this bill.

And I will keep you apprised of what I learn.

All best,

Don

 

February 13, 2020, 2:27 p.m.

Dear students,

With all the news breaking in Tallahassee about potential options for the future of New College, we want to state unequivocally that your academic experience and progress are our number one priority.

We will do everything we can to ensure that New College remains independent, and we are hopeful that we will succeed.

Whatever happens, however, as a result of this legislative session, we will ensure that your high quality academic experience will be uninterrupted, protected and maintained.  Our counterparts at Florida State University, who do not want a union any more than we do, are committed to the same.

Barbara Feldman and Don O’Shea
Provost and President

 

February 13, 2020, 9:32 a.m.

Many members of the New College community have asked what they can do to oppose House Bill PCB EDC 20-03 that would merge New College into Florida State University. The House Education Subcommittee voted yesterday in favor of the proposed legislation, which will now move into the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. For those who wish to support New College, please contact the members of this subcommittee and respectfully share with them your New College experience.

It’s important for legislators to understand that New College is unique within Florida’s state university system and folding it into FSU leaves Florida with nothing like it. New College consistently ranks among the nation’s top six public liberal arts colleges in the country. Very few cost savings would be obtained by placing New College under another university and the high-achieving students that New College attracts would need to look to other states to find a comparable liberal arts college.

New College was once part of USF and both schools have thrived since their separation by the legislature in 2001. This current reconfiguration of the State University System appears to have been hastily conceived without proper study, discussion, and public comment.

Office of Communications & Marketing
New College of Florida

February 13, 2020, 9:23 a.m.

Yesterday, the Education Subcommittee of the Florida House voted in favor of House Bill PCB EDC 20-03, which proposes that Florida Polytechnic University be merged into the University of Florida and New College of Florida into Florida State University.
I am going to Tallahassee next week to meet with our legislative delegation and other members of the House and Senate to argue against this bill. I have written op/eds for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Tampa Bay Times explaining why an independent New College is the best option for the State University System and Florida students.
Many of you have asked where to direct your communications about this bill.  At this point, your calls and emails would be most appropriately addressed to the members of your local legislative delegation and those of the House Higher Ed Appropriations Sub-Committee. Please keep your comments polite, as personal attacks may actually hurt the cause.
New College is a unique institution that has earned many accolades since achieving independence in 2001. For intellectually curious students seeking a small, residential, highly academic environment, we are the best and only choice in the state system.
I am grateful for the outpouring of support for New College that has come from our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the local community. I will continue to keep you apprised of developments with this piece of legislation.
Don O’Shea
President
 

February 11, 2020, 10 a.m.

I just learned about House Bill PCB EDC 20-03 late Monday afternoon.  It proposes that Florida Polytechnic University be merged into University of Florida and New College of Florida into Florida State University.

No one outside of a small group in the House knew anything about this. As best we can tell, it was drafted without knowledge or input from any of the affected universities or members of the Board of Governors.  There is no companion bill in the Senate, and that chamber seems to have been caught unawares, too.

While I certainly respect the Legislature’s right to entertain and make these kinds of decisions, I believe that the State University System is stronger with an independent New College.  One of the system’s hallmarks is its diversity of institutions.  New College plays an important and unique role in this respect and, in fact, in the national higher education landscape.  New College has consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts universities since becoming independent, second only to the nation’s military academies. It offers unique opportunities for Florida’s students and serves an important in our region. For these reasons, I wholeheartedly support New College’s continued independence.

We are working closely with our legislative team, the Board of Governors and our fellow members in the State University System.  We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Please send any questions and concerns to communications@ncf.edu.
Don O’Shea
President
 

FAQ

Updated 3/5/2020 at 8:55 am

Is New College being folded into the University of Florida?

A bill in the state legislature proposes to turn New College into a satellite campus of the University of Florida. New College is – and we believe should always be – a stand-alone public college in the State University System. This bill cannot go into effect unless the House of Representatives and the State Senate vote for it and Governor Ron DeSantis signs it into law. 

Why does the state legislature want to get rid of New College?

Some legislators have argued that the cost to the state of educating a student at New College is significantly higher than at a large research university like UF. That’s not a fair comparison because those schools are much larger and offer one-year master’s degrees that are less expensive than four-year undergraduate degrees. 

Why does the state want to make New College part of UF?

The bill proposes to merge both New College and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. The original bill proposed merging New College into Florida State University and Florida Poly into the University of Florida. Since the Florida Poly campus is closer to the UF campus, the bill now proposes merging both NCF and Florida Poly into the University of Florida, which is located in Gainesville.

Why is the legislature proposing this plan now?

 The Legislature is currently in session and this bill was just introduced February 12.

Is New College more expensive than the larger schools?

No. In fact, the cost to students is lower at New College than at the other universities in Florida.

What are the next steps for the bill? 

The bill was approved by the House Education Committee on February 12 and the House Appropriations Committee on February 25. It is now expected to go before the full House of Representatives for a vote on March 9.

When will a final decision be made?

We anticipate that a decision will be made during this legislative session, which ends March 13, 2020.

How will a merger affect students’ education?

The bill does not provide information about the merger’s impact on students’ educational experience. 

What impact will a merger have on students’ tuition?

Students currently enrolled at New College will continue to pay New College tuition rates. 
 

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