TALLAHASSEE — New College of Florida President Donal O’Shea on Tuesday made a pitch for $5.25 million in the new state budget to allow the school to complete the $8.9 million expansion of the Heiser Natural Sciences facility.
In data provided to the Board of Governors’ panel that oversees university facilities projects, New College said 27 percent, or 48 students, earned STEM degrees in 2015. But the Heiser addition will help the school increase that number to 41 percent by 2020.Lawmakers have already approved $3.65 million for the 23,000-square-foot addition that will house the school’s new data science master’s degree program and help the school increase its number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates. The $5.25 million in the 2016-17 budget would allow the college to complete the project, which is set to begin construction in July 2016 and finish by September 2017.
The Heiser expansion will also house the newly approved master’s degree program in data science, with New College projecting that by the time the new addition is completed, the master’s program could be producing some 15 graduates a year in a highly employable field.
O’Shea told the BOG’s Facilities Committee, which was meeting in Orlando on Tuesday, that although New College is the smallest institution in the state university system, its student go on to earn more doctorates, as percentage, than all the other schools. About 14.5 percent of the New College students will eventually earn doctorates, compared to an SUS average of 1.5 percent.
“Even though we’re small, we’re producing in absolute numbers and we’re contributing substantially to Florida’s production of scientists,” said O’Shea, who has a doctorate in mathematics.
University construction funding is limited, with the BOG already tentatively approving a $146 million request for 2016-17, with $62 million in maintenance funding and $84 million in new construction. BOG members heard requests from other schools that dwarf New College’s proposal, including Florida State University asking for $35 million in funding for an earth ocean atmospheric sciences building and the University of Florida asking for $25 million for a nuclear sciences building.
H. Wayne Huizenga Jr., chairman of the BOG’s facilities panel, said he had visited the Heiser facility and experienced its “tight spaces.”
“I think everybody agrees that it’s not a huge ask but it’s a huge ask for you and what it does for the university and continuing to help you move forward,” Huizenga told O’Shea.