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Senate proposes independent study of FAMU-FSU engineering split


The Florida Senate is offering to fund a study of the proposed split of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering that gives the state Board of Governors final say over whether changes should be made.

Under the Senate plan, which the House still must agree to, $150,000 in state funding would be set aside to conduct an independent review of the engineering program and decide if Florida State University, Florida A&M University or both should continue offering degrees.

Senate budget chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the plan was devised in hopes of addressing concerns raised by House Speaker Will Weatherford, who said the Board of Governors should be consulted in the controversial plan to divide the 32-year-old joint engineering school.

Sen. John Thrasher, an FSU alum who is reportedly interested in becoming the school's next president, had proposed allocating $13 million to FSU to begin the process of creating an engineering school separate from FAMU, a historically black university just a few miles away. The money was inserted in the ninth hour in the Senate's budget proposal.

The House has refused to negotiate on the issue thus far, offering no money for Thrasher's plan. The House must now come up with a response to Sunday's proposal to allow the Board of Governors, which oversees the 12 state universities, to have final say.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, has been one of the most vocal opponents to the proposed engineering school split, saying she worried about the state's long-term commitment to funding two costly programs and wanted to ensure FAMU is protected.

Joyner said an independent study would be a step in the right direction, even though she believes more money would be needed to fully analyze the issue. "It slowed the process down," she said. "At least it's not happening overnight."