Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Changes to College Bill Likely

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Changes to College Bill Likely

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE

A bill that would force State College of Florida Manatee- Sarasota to change its name did not move forward last week.

If it is taken up again, it might be changed, according to the bill's sponsor.

The Florida Legislature is considering a measure that would prohibit colleges from using the word "state" in their names, and impose more limits on their four-year degrees.

But those rules are attached to a separate higher education bill file by Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who has filed her own amendments that could loosen those restrictions.

"I believe it's more of a compromise in the middle," Stargel said. "It would let the colleges have growth if they need growth, yet stay on their mission."

The bill had been scheduled for its second committee stop on Wednesday, but was postponed while Stargel was busy elsewhere with an alimony reform bill.

The issue is likely to be up for debate again this week, as Stargel said she was confident her bill, SB 1252, would be brought back up at a later committee.

The tougher restrictions added to the bill have a powerful sponsor in Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who could become Senate president after the 2016 elections.

Negron has worked before to limit college offerings that he says overlap with what four-year universities already provide. This year's effort is part of a battle over four-year degrees, once largely the responsibility of state universities.

Colleges are operating under a moratorium on new four-year degrees imposed by the Legislature, but that expires this year. If no new law is passed, the colleges will be freed of those limits.

Under Negron's proposal, colleges would have to give notice a year before they offer new four-year degrees, up from 60 days in the current law. It would cap at 5 percent the share of a college's enrollment that could be made up of students pursuing baccalaureate degrees.

And in a shot to the marketing of the colleges -- which used to be called "community colleges" -- the institutions would no longer be allowed to use "state" in their names. Sixteen colleges would have their names changed to comply with that rule, in addition to Florida Gateway College being renamed Lake City College.

That could be especially painful for SCF Manatee-Sarasota, which changed its name from Manatee Community College in 2009. Under the new rules, it would be called "Manatee-Sarasota College. …

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