(Bradenton, Fla., September 24, 2009) -Charged by
the state of Florida with providing local access to workforce
baccalaureate degrees at an affordable cost to students and
taxpayers, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, (SCF)
has responded to the community's request for four-year degree
At an SCF District Board of Trustees workshop on Thursday,
board members received preliminary results of a needs
assessment for the proposed programs and heard from
community and business leaders who requested the new
programs be offered locally.
SCF Board of Trustees in May gave approval to proceed with
the formal application process for six new baccalaureate
programs including: energy technology, health services
administration, public safety/homeland security, technology
management, early childhood education (birth through age 4)
and exceptional student education.
The College's first baccalaureate program, the Bachelor of
Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degree, was approved by the
State Board of Education on March 17 after local health
care professionals supported the College's efforts in
bringing the program to the area. The application for the
program is now considered a model for the state in
approving other bachelor's programs at state colleges. So
far, 124 applications have been received and $500,000 has
been raised in support of SCF's B.S.N. program starting in
January, said Dr. Mike Mears, SCF vice president of
baccalaureate degree programs.
"That was a real success story and that's what we want to
build on," Mears said.
So far, SCF has had 1, 700 responses from various student
surveys on the six proposed programs and expects to have
2,000 at the conclusion of the needs assessment.
Steve Harner, board chairman and a businessman in the
community, expressed the importance of listening to the
needs of SCF's customers-students, prospective students,
employers and the community.
"Today's workshop once again shows that we at SCF have
listened to stakeholders, we have done our homework, we are
not interested in duplicating programs, but we are
interested in supporting taxpayers' best interests by
providing needed fiscally responsible, four-year workforce
degrees," Harner said.
Here's a sampling of what community and business leaders
had to say:
Early Childhood Education (birth through age
New Degree Not Previously Offered in Florida
Dr. Gwen Brown, chair, Manatee County Commission Board,
worked to develop the local Head Start Program in Manatee
County. Head Start will be working vigorously to comply
with a requirement to have 50 percent of child care
teachers earn a bachelor's degree by the year 2013.
The demand for qualified, educated teachers has
evolved throughout the years as research has shown the
importance of early childhood development in preparing
children to learn how to read, write and relate to others.
"It is urgent," she said. "It's not about keeping children
anymore. It's not about babysitting. It's about helping
children develop so that they can learn." -Gwen Brown
SCF graduates and employees of Children First, a Head Start
program in Sarasota, said that an early childhood education
program offered locally would attract employees not only
from their organization but also from other childhood
educators in the two-county area.
SCF graduate Michelle Bundy struggled to complete her
bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida
because classes were dispersed across the Gulf Coast region
in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Venice and Seminole.
"As a single mom, it took me six years to complete a
four-year degree at USF."- Michelle Bundy, SCF graduate
Saran DeVaughn, also SCF graduate, expressed interest in
pursuing a bachelor's degree if it were offered closer to
"It makes life so much easier to commute seven miles as
opposed to Tampa," she said. "Speaking as a single parent
and trying to go to school and work, there are people who
would come when SCF offers the bachelor's program."-Saran
Exceptional Student Education (ESE)
Karen Feduccia, chair of Board of Directors for Manatee
Bringing Up Down Syndrome (BUDS), has a six-year-old child
with Down Syndrome. Feduccia pleaded for SCF to offer a
bachelor's degree in exceptional student education so that
teachers would be equipped to help Down Syndrome children
learn. The bachelor's ESE degree would not only draw
students to the college, but would keep them interested in
staying and working in the area.
"Many children with Down Syndrome are very capable
learners. All they need is highly trained professional
teachers that help them learn. It would be amazing to me
that anyone wanting to train to be a teacher would ever
want to leave this community. If we train teachers who stay
in our community, it only has a ripple effect on our
Christine Fioritto-Skett, SCF student and child advocate,
has a son with autism. She had considered an occupational
therapy degree but prefers to earn a bachelor's in a more
concentrated area of exceptional student education.
Students with special needs can be integrated into
classrooms, causing a need for teachers to have specialized
"We need educators that can teach to all children
throughout every classroom in our schools. We need to meet
all children's needs. There will be a need for more
teachers that are qualified to teach exceptional students."
Robert Garcia, vice president of business development at
Trane, expressed support for SCF to offer a bachelor's
degree in energy technology that is not offered in the
state. The program would not only train technologically
advanced young people to face today's energy challenges but
create jobs so that graduates will stay in the area.
"In my business, it's a very difficult job to find a person
with that kind of training. This program will fill what we
call an educational hole in our business," he said.
"We have committed ourselves to help your foundation
so that we can raise funds to get this program going."
Public Safety/Homeland Security
Local fire chiefs and police officers expressed a vital
need for public service in the area. Workers in the field
pay costly education at private schools or attend public
colleges and universities often prolonging completion of
their degree because of the inconvenience of traveling to
Mark Souders, fire chief, Bradenton Fire Department
"Degrees and education requirements are becoming more
important to have success in my business," he said. "If you
want a job in my business in public safety, a two year
degree in fire science will get you started. The four year
degree will promote you to a much higher salary."
Steve Simpson, operations officer, Manatee County Emergency
"This is a human resource that rightfully should be
homegrown," he said. "It's our aim to leave our
organization better than we found it in new, capable
Bill Tokajer, deputy chief, Bradenton City Police
"A public safety degree is a necessity, and we don't have
it here. All of our officers need higher education. When we
have such a wonderful campus here, it's ridiculous that
we're allowing our citizens to go somewhere else when they
could be doing the work right here," he said.
Staci Cross, chief technology officer, City of Bradenton
"I can hire any day someone with technology skills. What I
have a hard time finding is business skills," she said.
"This degree is about putting forth more well-rounded
individuals and work with my business users. It's not about
implementing technology. It's about solving business
Health Services Administration
Mary Ann Conroy, president and CEO of Englewood Community
Hospital, was a strong supporter of the new R.N. to B.S.N.
program when it was approved in March by the State Board of
Education. She applauds the College for pursuing a
bachelor's degree in health services administration.
"This will provide our residents the gift of education.
This is something that can never be taken from you. Health
care positions will continue to be in demand over the next
generation. The need for health services administration
will never be limited."-Mary Ann Conroy
Vernon DeSear, vice president, Manatee Memorial
Hospital,also supported SCF by joining College officials in
Tallahassee to express to the State Board of Education the
need for the nursing program. But more educational options
are vital to the needs of the health care profession.
"The bachelor's in health services administration would
give students a chance to go one step higher in education.
We feel State College of Florida has taken the lead and
given them the option of doing it right here in our own
town. We've seen a chance to make this a success with
everybody working together."-Vernon DeSear
Despite the clear demand for workforce baccalaureate degree
programs in the area, Sarasota-Manatee branch campus of the
University of South Florida (USF) has sent an alternative
proposal to the State Board of Education, contending that
the degree programs are already being offered locally.
Dr. Jack Crocker, vice president of academic quality and
success, said the shift in higher education is one to which
the community has only recently been introduced.
"What we had with the USF/MCC model was a
20thCentury model. We now have a 21st
Century model with State College of Florida locally
offering bachelor's degrees," he said.
"We're convinced here today from what we have heard
there is overwhelming support from our community that these
programs are needed," Crocker said. "These are not
duplicated programs. They are needed by the community and
we will continue to go forward as the State College of
SCF President Dr. Lars Hafner vowed that if any programs
were found to be duplicative, he would return to the board
to request to withdraw that program.
"Why would anyone want to stand in the way for more
workforce degrees in the area? By offering four-year
degrees locally, we are doing this for the students, we are
doing this for the businesses, and we are doing this for
the community," Hafner said.
Bachelor's programs offered at the state college level are
cost-effective, operating on significantly less state
funding when compared to universities and costing less in
tuition for individual students.
Hafner emphasized that SCF will continue its mission to
produce associate's degree graduates while expanding to
include other programs vital to the needs of local economy.
Crocker cited the popularity of the college and university
systems' state articulation agreement known as the 2 + 2
program as an example of a continuing partnership between
SCF and USF that works well for students.
The timeline to have the baccalaureate programs application
completed and submitted to the state is early October.