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Budget language on engineering school study protects FAMU


The Board of Governors will have two options when it conducts a study on the future of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. It can keep the status quo, meaning the 32-year-old partnership between Florida State University and Florida A&M University will continue operating as it has. Or the board can decide to create differentiated programs at each university, meaning certain majors or degrees would be offered at FAMU and different ones would be available at FSU.

What is not an option: splitting the school in a way that leaves FAMU without an engineering program, something its advocates feared would happen under the Senate plan to funnel $13 million to FSU so it can begin creating its own engineering school.

"Slowing down was the best thing to do and this Legislature made the right decision in taking time to really evaluate the interests of both universities," said Sean Pittman, a lobbyist for FAMU.

The budget language allocates $500,000 to the Board of Governors to hire a non-Florida-based firm to conduct the study "with the goal of achieving world class engineering education opportunities for students in both universities." The study must be completed by January and a decision by the board no later than March 2015.

The Senate proposed different language on Sunday that would have allowed a third option: establishing an independent engineering program at one or both schools. That was deleted from the House proposal that Senate budget chief Joe Negron agreed to late Monday during a meeting to finalize many aspects of the budget.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, is a FAMU alum whose district also includes the university. He said black caucus members and FAMU supporters worked hard to counteract the Senate plan to divide the FAMU-FSU engineering school, and they received support from House Speaker Will Weatherford along the way.

"Speaker Weatherford held firm on understanding the intent and the mission of this joint school, so we think we're in a great place," Williams said. "Now we'll see what facts come out of the study."