Growing Mission for Sante Fe College, Others
Gainesville’s Santa Fe is among the latest state community colleges to drop “community” from its name. As part of a far-ranging education bill passed by the Legislature this year, Santa Fe and eight other community colleges become part of a pilot program to offer bachelor’s degrees in high-need fields.
SFC’s first bachelor’s degrees will be in fields that local biotech and hospital leaders requested.
Florida is 46th in the nation in baccalaureate degrees granted. Ten of Florida’s community colleges already offer four-year degrees in fields that have been identified as critical local needs. The new law could expand those offerings dramatically. It creates the Florida College System and a task force to develop recommendations for the transition of community colleges to bachelor’s-granting colleges. The task force must report back to the Legislature next spring. The new bachelor’s degrees will be offered as soon as next fall.
“We are stepping up again,” says Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser.
SFC’s first bachelor’s degrees will be in clinical laboratory technology and health science management — degrees requested by the region’s biotechnology and hospital leadership.
Critics, including some of Florida’s private and public university leaders, call the expansion “mission creep” that could lead to a new tier of education just as universities are being forced to get leaner. But Smith maintains that “there is strong interest in maintaining a single system and not breaking the colleges into two systems.”
“What we have right now in Florida, and what we want to keep,” says Smith, “is the best of both worlds.”