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    Area college changes advance

    A plan would make New College a university, among other changes.

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 19, 2001

    The state Senate is moving forward with plans to reshape Florida's higher education system, from making New College in Sarasota Florida's 11th state university to giving considerably more autonomy to the University of South Florida's branch campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota/Manatee.

    Those were the among the proposals given preliminary approval by the state Senate on Wednesday. In addition, the Senate gave initial approval to legislation that would allow St. Petersburg Junior College to become the first community college in Florida to award four-year degrees in specific fields, including teaching and nursing. The bill also would allow other community colleges to pursue awarding bachelor's degrees in high-demand fields.

    The changes would move Florida away from the traditional higher education model, a "two-plus-two" system in which students get two-year degrees from community colleges and finish their bachelor's degree at a four-year university.

    Some senators expressed concern Wednesday that the state is moving too far in giving more autonomy to branch campuses."It really does seem like we're forming two separate colleges, and I don't understand why we're doing this," said Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg.

    Under the legislation, the St. Petersburg and Sarasota/Manatee branch campuses of USF would have their own campus boards and campus executive officers, and would apply for separate accreditation, but they would still be part of USF. New College, a liberal arts college that has been part of USF since 1975, would separate from USF, becoming Florida's 11th state university -- a top priority of Senate President John McKay.

    The proposals still need final approval in the Senate, as well as the House.

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