Community college’s plan won’t impact USF

Manatee Community College’s plan to offer 4-year degrees will not affect its partnership with USF Sarasota-Manatee.

If approved by the state, the offering would be completely separate from the partnership the community college already has with USF, which puts MCC students on track to receive four-year degrees from the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

MCC’s new plan — stemming from a letter recently sent to the state Department of Education — would provide bachelor’s degrees in high-need fields that aren’t offered by USF’s campus there, such as nursing.

USF Sarasota-Manatee and MCC have a two-plus-two program, in which students can take their first two years at MCC and then transfer to USF Sarasota-Manatee to finish their bachelor’s degree, said Crystal Rothhaar, public affairs coordinator for USF Sarasota-Manatee.

The two-plus-two program is an ongoing partnership. USF Sarasota-Manatee offers classes only at the junior and senior levels, forcing students to achieve their AA degree elsewhere.

“They could have gone to MCC, be transfer students from another community college or could be transfers from a school like Florida State or even the USF Tampa campus,” Rothhaar said.

The college and the University want to work together to provide the community with a wider variety of bachelor’s degrees, she said.

MCC’s decision to become a four-year college will not be a partnership with USF, but rather a way of expanding higher education in the Sarasota-Manatee area.

“One institution cannot grant a degree from another institution. MCC is a community college and USF is a state university. We will retain our mission as a community college but offer some four-year degrees,” said Katharine Walker, MCC Director of Public Affairs and Marketing.

Some students support the idea. Sara Miller, a senior majoring in Spanish, says that the idea would be a great addition to the area.

“I would think that it would definitely benefit people, especially since USF is getting harder to get into. Community colleges are typically easier to afford,” Miller said. “It would be a good option for a lot of people.”

“We still plan to continue to work together to provide four-year programs for our community,” Rothhaar said. “What we don’t want to do is overlap and both be offering the same four year degrees, because that wouldn’t help our community at all.”

Partner hospitals with MCC said that they need more nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but MCC only offers AS degrees in that field, Walker said. This means that students would have to go either to a different USF campus that offers a BS in nursing or to another university.

“This is a deterrent for students, many of whom have families and jobs, because it takes too much time and travel money,” she said.

The MCC Board of Trustees unanimously approved a letter recently, which was then sent to the Florida Department of Education stating its goals.

“The proposal is the first step in a process expected to take 12 to 18 months,” Walker said. “The primary benefit is that more people will have convenient, local access to education that will prepare them to fill critical job shortages in our area.”