Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida Gateway College's Lawrence Barrett: Good News at FCG - Still Work to be Done

Every few months I let our community know what is happening at Florida Gateway College. November is a special month for the college with the Foundation for Florida Gateway College annual luncheon recognizing all of our donors and highlighting students that have received the scholarships they fund. Last year, the Foundation granted $1,000,000. Those that contribute to the Foundation not only impact the immediate lives of students, but these funds have an everlasting impact on the future success of so many.

In addition to the scholarships offered to students, the college also provides fee waivers that are separate from Foundation funds.  Last year in the college’s five county service district the college awarded more than $1.8 million in fee waivers to students.

The dual enrollment program benefits students and parents in helping students achieve success. This program is free to middle and high school students in good standing and provides textbooks.

For the duel enrollment program the college receives only a small portion of the cost of tuition from the local school districts. The rest is subsidized by the college budget. The majority of the $1.8 million in fee waivers is used for dual enrollment students.

We believe that dual enrollment is a fantastic and affordable pathway for college success and completion, but it is important that we also share some of the funding challenges regarding this program.

During a time when many colleges are raising their prices, for the fifth consecutive year FGC has not raised tuition and student fees. This is a remarkable achievement. State support of our college was reduced by more than $175,000 this year, while our enrollment has increased by 15%.  FGC is achieving and doing more with less. We are redirecting our resources, creating efficiencies, and not just recruiting, but retaining our students.

The legislative session is set to begin in January. FGC will continue to advocate for the remainder of the capital needed to start and complete our new STEM Building. We are also asking the Legislature to allocate money to complete phase II of our Olustee Public Safety Campus. Both of these projects are worthy of funding.

Our current science and math facilities are more than 50 years old, in poor condition, and do not provide the learning conditions that our students deserve. Our expectation is to have this new building open by spring of 2020. Phase II of our Olustee project will enhance that campus so that we can provide CDL Training, Emergency Vehicle Safety Programs, and allow fire fighters and police officers a vehicle training facility. This project will once again ask private entities to match the state dollars that we receive. We anticipate completion by summer of 2019.

Last year, the State College System, which enrolls 800,000 students, received a budget reduction of $30 million, while the State University System, which enrolls 300,000 students, received an increase of $300 million. Colleges like FGC provide workforce and transfer opportunities for our communities. Our value and service to our students are hindered by such radical funding disparities.

FGC, along with its sister State Colleges, will be advocating that the funding cut last year be restored and enhanced in the 2017-18 budget.

We have a lot to be proud of at Florida Gateway College. We need to do more.

We have an aggressive strategic plan to continue to move the college forward.  A 15% increase in enrollment is just the beginning. Look for additional academic workforce programs, new sports programs, new transfer articulation programs to other schools, and much, much more.

Dr. Lawrence Barrett has been president of FGC since July, 2015, coming from a background of 4 year, community, and technical colleges. He is a genuinely nice guy. He can be reached at: Lawrence.Barrett@fgc.edu

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