FCCJ Prepares for Big Changes: What’s in a Name? Quite a Bit!
In a few years some person will tell a friend that they graduated from FCCJ. That person's friend will give them a puzzled look. What's FCCJ? Oh, you mean Florida State College?
Yes. Officially, Florida Community College at Jacksonville becomes fully operational as Florida State College at Jacksonville on August 1st of this year.
The new Florida State College will have five fully operational campuses in the Jacksonville area, and five additional centers which also host classes and programs for students. Last year, the College claimed enrollment of more than 80,000 students and employed over 2,300 faculty and staff.
But don't let the College's President, Steven Wallace, hear you calling it FSCJ. The administration is discouraging use of the new acronym. In an email to all employees on the day the name changed was announced, Wallace said: “We appeal to you to resist the temptation to reduce our wonderful new name to an acronym. The words 'Florida State College' are far more compelling than the letters 'FSCJ'.”
Sheryl Williams, a Senior Support Specialist at the college's Learner Support Center, noted that some students have expressed concerns of confusion regarding the new name's similarity to Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee.
Williams said that one student asked: "Since you're changing your name to Florida State, will you also be known as the Seminoles?"
Another wrote in: "Didn't you know there's already a school called Florida state? This is going to cause you more problems than good. Just think about it."
That student may be surprised to find out that the administration at FCCJ did think about it. Indeed, quite a bit of thought went into selecting the school's new name, which was approved by the Florida Legislature.
It's been reported that the College spent about $50,000 to test possible new names and to develop a marketing plan. However, to save money in this tight budgetary environment, signs and other branding items will be gradually swapped out as needed. Items such as email addresses and the website address will be updated over a period of time, during which both versions will work.
The first time that FCCJ changed its name and status was in 1986, when it moved from being Florida Junior College to Florida Community College at Jacksonville. Of course, at that time, there was no online presence to change. Adopting a new name mostly meant changing stationary and repainting the walls.
Some of the other finalists for the new name included First Coast State College, Northeast Florida State College, Florida Northeastern State College, Florida Coastal State College and First Coast College at Jacksonville. Dozens of other names, including the serious and not-so-serious, were also taken under consideration.
Naturally, First Coast College at Jacksonville would have provided the benefit of maintaining the FCCJ acronym. But college officials believe that the value that comes from being known publicly as a “state college” is worth the trouble of making people get used to a new name.
"When we say the words, it connotes the accomplishment and sense of achievement that better represents who we are and what we inspire for our students and our community," says Tracy Pierce, Vice-President of Economic Development and Student Success. "The words are inspiring and I think students and the community will want to affiliate with that inspiration."
Whatever you call it, the change represents more than just a new name.
FCCJ's first four-year degree offered students a Bachelor of Applied Science in Fire Science Management. Begun several years ago, the program trains current and future emergency services personnel and made use of the Fire Science Academy, a large complex behind the college's South Campus located off Beach Boulevard.
Over time the college has added programs in Nursing, Computer Systems Networking, and Supervision and Management. Starting this Fall, Florida State College will offer students two new four-year degrees in the fields of Information Technology Management and Public Safety Management.
A seventh bachelor's degree program, in Early Childhood Education, will debut in the Spring of 2010. New programs will follow in the coming years as the expanded offerings enable many more students to start and end their academic careers at FSCJ.
The chief challenge facing the newly renamed institution, and all colleges around Florida, is the state's tightening budget for education.
Internal restructuring and streamlining of some of the College's departments has already begun. Some employees have had their positions eliminated, with many offered the opportunity to apply for new openings in other areas.
“Despite significant reductions in our state funding, this College has been very committed to serving students,” Wallace said. “While other institutions have managed enrollment to funding, this College has gone to extraordinary measures to meet northeast Florida’s increasing demand for accessible, affordable education. To date, we have not turned a single student away, nor will we do so next year.”
Building on FCCJ's already considerable presence as a provider of online courses, Florida State College is also be poised to become a regional leader in distance education, and a strong option for the educational needs of currently deployed military personnel.
“The global economy rewards educated people, educated communities and educated nations,” said Pierce. “To compete and win in a knowledge economy, we must provide the same accessibility to affordable, relevant baccalaureate programs as we have provided for decades at the associate degree level.”
Pierce also notes that until now, many students only had limited choices for four-year degree programs on the First Coast. Higher education is available, but often not easily accessible to everyone. The two major universities in the area have increased tuition rates and are not necessarily set up to accommodate work schedules or offer vocational programs.
“Traditional students with above average financial resources have no problem getting a four-year education in this city,” said Pierce. “Our economic opportunity lies in helping working adults and a broader cross-section of traditional students gain access to higher education. Our four year degrees are practitioner oriented and address regional employment needs. We believe passionately that high quality learning should be available to our friends and neighbors with minimal student debt.”
In case you are worried that Florida State College will abandon the core mission of a community college, the school's administration is quick to stress that this change is merely an addition of new opportunities for students.
“Jacksonville is not losing its community college, but rather gaining a state college with community college values," Wallace said.