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A Fight Over College Names

State College of Florida
Manatee Community College’s new name has irked some in Manatee County.
Since 2001, 10 of Florida’s community colleges have changed their names after the state gave them the right to offer four-year degrees. Nearly all of the changes have consisted of substituting the word “state” for the word “community.” Polk Community College, for instance, became Polk State College.

But at Manatee Community College, the switch to State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota has aroused controversy within the community, and SCF President Lars Hafner’s plans to extend its four-year degree programs have created conflict with a nearby state school.

Andy Gregory, a member of the college’s foundation board for 15 years and a Manatee Community College graduate, was so offended by the new name’s decreased emphasis on the school’s Manatee County roots that he resigned as the board’s vice president.

Gregory, vice president of sales at the Bradenton-based Des Champs & Gregory insurance firm, accuses school officials of pushing the name through without public input because they knew it would be met with resistance in Manatee County, where the school was founded in 1957.

Kathy Walker, the college’s director of public affairs and marketing, says the change happened within a few weeks because officials were in a hurry to market a new four-year nursing program, which will start enrolling students in January. Had the new name not been submitted for approval before the end of this year’s legislative session, she says, the school would have had to wait until the 2010 session.

Andy Gregory
Walker says a Manatee-only name would have slighted Sarasota County, where the college has a campus in Venice, and would not have reflected the school’s evolution into a regional institution, which is creating friction on its own. SCF’s move to get approval to offer six additional four-year degrees is being challenged by USF Sarasota-Manatee, which has a campus near the border of the two counties. That school’s president, Arthur Guilford, says USF already offers similar programs to some of those SCF is seeking and has asked the state Board of Education to refuse the overlapping degrees.

“It is a waste of taxpayer money to duplicate programs,” Guilford says.