Commissioner's Corner: High education options abound

Orange County residents are blessed with many great choices for higher education. As the County Commissioner for District 5, I am privileged to represent many of these institutions.

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  • | 5:50 a.m. April 28, 2016
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Orange County residents are blessed with many great choices for higher education. As the County Commissioner for District 5, I am privileged to represent many of these institutions. From Valencia College to Barry University School of Law, to Rollins College to the University of Central Florida, prospective students in District 5 have many options to choose from when looking for the right college experience. The University of Central Florida, far and away the largest university in Florida, is of particular note. From its humble beginnings in the early 1960s, UCF’s expansion has always been indicative of the growth and development of the greater community it serves. This month, I would like to give you a brief overview on UCF’s history, growth, and future plans for this impressive university.

On June 10, 1963, the state of Florida created a new university in eastern Central Florida. At the time, a large demand existed for workers trained in engineering, electronics, and other technological disciplines to support the budding U.S. space and missiles programs. In 1964, state officials acquired the site of the main campus in east Orange County and, in 1967, broke ground on the newly named Florida Technical University. Classes began the next year with 1,948 students enrolled in 55 degree programs supported by 90 instructors and 150 staff members. The University opened its first satellite campuses that year in Daytona and Cocoa.

In 1978, Governor Ruben Askew signed legislation changing FTU’s name to the University of Central Florida. In the 1980s, UCF’s growth led to the establishment of its first doctoral programs as well as the incredible public-private partnership in the Central Florida Research Park. Growth at UCF has only increased in speed in the years since. As of 2015, UCF had over 63,000 students enrolled in 208 bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs, making it the second largest university in the nation. The size of UCF’s faculty and staff has kept pace with its student population; over 11,000 faculty and staff ensure the university continues to operate smoothly. The number of UCF regional campuses has also grown to 10 today including campuses in Altamonte Springs, Leesburg, Ocala, Palm Bay, Clermont and Kissimmee.

Exciting things are on the horizon for UCF thanks to the efforts of UCF, the city of Orlando and many community partners. UCF has plans to build a downtown Orlando campus to serve and house 7,700 students in digital entertainment and communication, healthcare technology and administration, and public service programs. UCF will partner with Valencia College to share space and teaching staff to keep costs down for both institutions. Approximately 70 percent of the downtown campus’ student body will be UCF students with the remainder coming from Valencia College. As you may have read, UCF was recently awarded $20 million in state funding toward this project. This state funding, combined with a $20 million contribution from UCF and $20 million from community partners, including $3 million from Orange County government, will fund this important project. Most importantly, the city of Orlando approved a $75 million contribution toward the project, including land and infrastructure improvements. The location of this campus will provide easy access to downtown-area internship opportunities for students, particularly those living on or near the campus.

As an Orange County Commissioner, I am proud to have UCF home grown in our community. I look forward to UCF continuing to train future generations of engineers, scientists, doctors, teachers, hospitality workers, and many other important professions. As always, if you have any questions about Orange County’s commitment to supporting the University of Central Florida or any other county issue, please do not hesitate to contact me or my aide, Edgar Robinson. We can be reached at 407-836-7350 or by email and [email protected].