December 2, 2022

Education

Growing Mission for Sante Fe College, Others

Cynthia Barnett | 8/1/2008

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.

Santa Fe college
SFC’s first bachelor’s degrees will be in fields that local biotech and hospital leaders requested.
“Just as community colleges stepped up to meet Florida’s educational needs post-World War II, when there was a pressing need for associate degrees, we are stepping up again,” says SFC President Jackson Sasser. “Internationalization, technology and other issues are now driving a great need for baccalaureate degrees in Florida.”

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.

Jackson Sasser
“We are stepping up again,” says Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser.
“This really is landmark legislation for Florida,” says Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith. “We’ve been blessed with what many consider to be the best community college system in the nation, and it’s served Florida well, but we really have the opportunity to build on that. From the business standpoint, how this develops will be absolutely critical to the state’s economic development.”

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.”

Tags: Northeast, Education

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