SARASOTA, Fla. — The campus of New College of Florida in Sarasota is abuzz with questions and concern.
Students are trying to make sense of proposed legislation out of Tallahassee which would have Florida’s only honors public liberal arts university taken over by FSU.
“I first heard about it this morning from my roommate,” said student Bug Dykema. “People just wondering what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen.”
Students Alexandra Barbat and Ellie Young aren’t wasting any time. They’ve already started contacting Florida lawmakers and have started encouraging their classmates to write letters to the editor for newspapers across the state.
“The first thing we do is we flood their phone lines,” Barbat said. Her friend Ellie Yong also agreed to help make calls. “I lost too much sleep to just sit back and do nothing,” Young said. “I’ve been upset about this all day.”
“We just need to be loud and vocal and let them know that even though we’re a small college we have a loud voice,” Barbat said.
Students say while they understand the state’s duty to search for efficiencies, they don’t believe lawmakers understand the value of what New College provides.
“I really don’t think they did their homework on this,” said Sarasota-area attorney Chad Bickerton. “They have reduced a unique place like New College to one economic factor.”
The bill’s sponsors say the state of Florida spends on average more money per diploma for students at New College than it does for students at FSU and that by combining the two schools the state can save desperately needed money.
“New College produced more Fulbright Scholars that Harvard and Yale and no one is ever going to try to make Harvard and Yale condense into another school,” Bickerton said.
Ellie Young says she’s offended by the lawmaker’s line of thinking.
“The idea that my degree is inefficient because it costs some amount more than what it would cost at FSU -- what you’re really telling me is that the value of education -- the valuer of my college degree is reduced down to however much it costs which I take great issue with,” she said.
The president of New College in an email to students, alumni and staff said he was totally caught off guard by the proposal and believes Florida is better off with an independent New College.
Students and alumni say they’ll fight to the finish to keep it that way.
“Like if this goes through, if they decide to abolish New College and give it to FSU I’m probably just going to leave Florida,” Young said.
Bickerton says he’s read though the entire bill and says the math just doesn’t justify what the state is proposing.
“It talks about saving 5 to 7 million dollars,” Bickerton said. “I don’t think it's worth killing New College’s independence.
"I think it’s worth a lot more than that.”
The Florida House Education Committee will discuss the proposal Wednesday morning.
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