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Legislature agrees to FAMU-FSU engineering study instead of automatic split


It was Sen. John Thrasher who successfully lobbied the Senate to add $3 million to the budget to help Florida State University begin creating its own engineering school separate from Florida A&M University.

But Thrasher said late Sunday that he concurs with the compromise agreement struck with the House to fund an independent study of the 32-year-old joint engineering school instead. Lawmakers will provide $500,000 for the study and allow the state Board of Governors to have final say on whether the engineering school should be separated, given to just one school or remain as-is.

"I'm happy about that," said Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who is rumored to have his sight set on becoming FSU's next president. He said the discussion about the future of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering was a necessary one that would not have taken place if he hadn't proposed a budget amendment to fund the split.

Rep. Alan Williams, whose district includes FAMU, noted the House never agreed to fund the split and Speaker Will Weatherford initially floated the idea of a study as a diplomatic way to move forward.presented the study as a diplomatic way to move forward.

"I think the House position is the right direction to go in because we don't know all the details, we don't know the unintended consequences that might have occurred if we had gone with the Senate budget amendment," Williams, D-Tallahassee, said.

As part of the compromise, the $3 million in FSU operating dollars for the engineering split has been deleted from the budget. Thrasher said the $10 million in Public Education Capital Outlay funds will no longer be earmarked for a new engineering school on FSU's campus but may be re-directed to other projects at the university. The PECO list will be made public Monday.

The House and Senate still need to iron out the verbiage that will be added to the budget describing how the engineering school study should be conducted. They are also still negotiating on the language that will be used to describe how $200 million in performance funding will be dished out to the state universities. The Senate wants stiffer penalties for the lowest-performing schools compared to the House.

The two chambers have also agreed to fund two university-based projects that initially appeared to symbolize a power struggle between Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford. The Senate wanted $10 million for University of West Florida's Office of Economic Development and Engagement, but the compromise agreement allocates $5 million.

The House had $7 million earmarked for Jacksonville University, Weatherford's alma mater. The Senate only offered $1 million initially, but now has agreed to fund the entire amount.