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OWC Trustees Approve New Name for College:
Northwest Florida State College
NICEVILLE, FL--- In a move that solidifies Okaloosa-Walton College's new role as one of Florida's first state colleges, the OWC District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday, July 8, to officially rename the 44-year-old institution as Northwest Florida State College.
"This is truly a monumental moment in our college's history," noted trustee chairman Wesley Wilkerson who said the new name best reflects the college's expanded mission to offer more baccalaureate programs that meet regional and statewide employment needs.
Trustees initially considered a slate of more than 40 different names including retaining the O-W name and simply becoming Okaloosa-Walton State College. "While there was discussion about keeping the current name, the trustees determined that Northwest Florida State College most accurately represents our new mission and expanded service district," noted Dr. Bob Richburg, college president. "By maintaining the college's scarlet and silver colors and the Raiders name for our sports programs - we think we've got a good balance between O-W tradition and our new state college role."
A new state law, signed by Governor Crist in mid June at a ceremony held at the college's Mattie Kelly Art Center, named OWC as one of nine colleges included in the State College Pilot Project with the goal of expanding access to higher education throughout the state.
"Under the law our mission is expanded, but we will also keep doing all the things we do best as a community college," explained Richburg. "The college will maintain our commitment to open-door access, associate degree programs, adult education, short-term career training programs and low tuition," said Richburg, "Our trustees remain committed to keeping the college affordable. Our bachelor's degree tuition is about 80 percent of the fees in the state university system." Richburg said the college will phase in the new name and use up current items such as catalogs and other materials printed with the OWC name until they have to be re-ordered in a normal cycle. "Other items such as our diplomas and official seal will have to change more quickly," he said noting that December grads could count on the new name being on their diplomas.
OWC was accredited to award bachelor's degrees in 2004 and already has two successful bachelor's degree programs in place with more than 600 students admitted in the Project Management and Nursing 4-year-degrees. Two new baccalaureate degree programs, in Elementary Education and Middle Grades Math/Science Education, begin at the college in August. "We're looking at expansion in our Business, Interdisciplinary Sciences and other areas for future Bachelor's degree programs," said Richburg, who noted that additional Bachelor's programs will likely be phased in over the coming years based on regional needs and feasibility. The new name and state college status will not affect OWC's accreditation. The college received level two Baccalaureate accreditation in 2004 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
The Florida College System legislation (SB1716) signed into law by Governor Crist also creates a Florida College System Task Force to be composed of community college presidents and other higher education leaders from a cross-section of the state. The nine colleges in the State College Pilot Project, including OWC will collaborate with the Task Force to recommend a Baccalaureate program approval process and a funding model for the Florida College System. The Task Force will also help to identify geographic and academic needs for future Baccalaureate programs. The legislation also states that the new state colleges will not offer graduate degrees or participate in four-year athletic programs.
"The state college system means more students in Florida will be able to access higher education degrees, especially in academic areas where the demand for educated workers is exceeding the supply," noted state Rep. Ray Sansom. "We expect these programs to be more affordable and cost--effective than those at the state university level-and that's another benefit to both the taxpayers and the students."
BACKGROUND ON OWC NAME HISTORY:
-Established in April 1963 by the Florida Legislature as the 18th of the state's eventual 28 community colleges
-Officially named Okaloosa-Walton Junior College on March 10, 1964
-Okaloosa-Walton Junior College opened its doors to students in August 1964 at a temporary campus in Valparaiso - at that time there were 309 full-time and 458 part-time students.
-The college's District Board of Trustees officially changed the name to Okaloosa-Walton Community College on March 15, 1988.
-April 2003 Florida State Board of Education authorized OWCC to develop baccalaureate degree programs, followed by accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a level II baccalaureate degree granting institution
-College officially changed name to Okaloosa-Walton College on July 1, 2004 to reflect new bachelor's degree status
- The District Board of Trustees officially changed the college's name to Northwest Florida State College on July 8, 2008. Enrollment at the college is now 15,500 with 6 campuses and centers and a 7th location under construction in South Walton County
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND ON STATE COLLEGE STATUS: A number of states, including Florida, recently have begun providing options for their community colleges to award baccalaureate degrees for more of their citizens to be able to obtain postsecondary education beyond the associate degree level. Florida's community colleges have been in the forefront of developing baccalaureate degree programs to meet critical regional workforce needs, particularly in teaching, nursing, and applied sciences. However, Florida is still falling short in its production of graduates with bachelors degrees to fill the state's critical workforce needs.
RECENT HISTORY: In 1998, several education reports were published identifying access to baccalaureate degrees in Florida as a significant problem and recognizing Florida's community colleges as a viable solution. In 1999, the Legislature authorized community colleges to seek approval to grant baccalaureate degrees in areas of high demand. In 2001, the Legislature authorized St. Petersburg College to grant baccalaureate degrees in nursing, education, and information technology; and codified a process for community colleges to seek approval by the State Board of Education (SBE) to grant baccalaureate degrees in limited areas. In 2002, the SBE granted such approval to Chipola and Miami-Dade; and in 2003, to Okaloosa-Walton. In 2004, St. Petersburg College awarded the first community college baccalaureate degrees in the state. From 2004 through 2006, this ad hoc process continued, resulting, by Spring 2006, in seven community colleges approved to offer a total of 30 baccalaureate degrees. In 2007, the Pappas Consulting Group published its analysis of the State University System, with recommendations for improvements. The Pappas report noted that Florida has the largest number of community colleges offering baccalaureate degree programs in the country; that the state should place more emphasis on increasing these degrees; and that there are advantages to the community college baccalaureate degree as a way for more students to access higher education in Florida.
NEW LAW - SB 1716 (2008): Building on the recent history foundation laid out over the past decade, this bill enacts the vision of the 2008 Legislature to provide a new middle-tier system of higher education in Florida that will maximize student access to baccalaureate degrees, respond to community needs for postsecondary education, and provide the degrees that best meet Florida's employment needs.
Florida College System Task Force: The bill creates the Florida College System Task Force, comprised of community college presidents and others with expertise in higher education in Florida, to develop recommendations regarding the criteria for establishing and funding state colleges, including a program approval process for new baccalaureate degree programs, a funding model that ensures cost-effective delivery with substantial savings to the student and the state over the cost of providing degrees at state universities, and identification of geographic and academic areas of need for degree programs.
State College Pilot Project: The bill also creates a State College Pilot Project comprised of nine colleges that represent diverse geographic locations and student populations:
Chipola College, Marianna Daytona Beach College, Daytona (has changed their name to Daytona State College) Edison College, Fort Myers Indian River College, Fort Pierce (has changed their name to Indian River State College) Miami-Dade College, Miami-Dade Okaloosa-Walton College, Niceville Polk College, Winter Haven Santa Fe College, Gainesville St. Petersburg College, St. Petersburg
These nine colleges, operating as the Pilot Project, will collaborate with the Florida College System Task Force and will make recommendations for a baccalaureate degree program approval process, criteria for transition of an institution from a community college to a state college, and the development of the funding model for the new state colleges.