Florida Institute of Technology broke ground Friday on an $18 million health sciences research center to expand its biomedical programs.
Expected to be completed in December 2021, the 61,000-square-foot center will house over 20,000 square feet of classroom and training space and include a variety of specialty equipment, according to a Florida Tech news release.
Higher education is facing a “crossroads,” Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay said at the Friday groundbreaking for the new facility. National student populations have decreased and consumers have questioned the value of a college education, making it difficult for colleges to maintain their enrollment and revenue.
Many small private universities have closed their doors, McCay said, and these challenges have only been compounded by the coronavirus crisis.
“Despite this environment, we see a bright future for Florida Tech,” McCay said. “Our university has evolved by offering training in the high-demand fields that will provide rewarding and well-paying careers for our students.”
The groundbreaking is an example of that commitment, as biomedical engineering and health science research are fast-growing and high-paying fields, McCay said.
Once built, the facilities could double the size of the undergraduate biomedical engineering program from 150 to 300 full time on-campus students and increase the size of the undergraduate premedical program from 150 to 250, according to a Florida Tech news release.
The facility will give students access to an assortment of new equipment ranging from virtual reality training to several types of microscopes to synthetic cadavers. McCay said the synthetic cadavers, though expensive up front, cost less to maintain and can be reused more than real human remains.
“The plastic ones are much easier to take care of,” McCay said. “You wipe them down and put them in the closet, whereas you can’t quite do that with an actual human being.”
Many of these new ideas and technology came from New Mexico-based Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, which partnered with Florida Tech in August, McCay said.
“‘State of the art’ just means you’ve caught up to people,” McCay said. “It doesn’t mean you passed them … (Burrell College) has state of the art facilities, and the best ideas are the ones you steal.”
Though challenges are ahead, McCay said Florida Tech has fared well this semester. Enrollment and retention have risen this year, not fallen, which he attributes to the university’s combination of in-person and online classes as well as its unique offerings such as the lagoon research projects.
He also, without providing further details, said some legislation has made it easier to retain the university’s large population of international students.
“Good ideas are hard to come by,” McCay said. “If it’s a bright idea, it’s practical, and you have the resources to make it happen and the enthusiasm and the passion and talent to do it, you can have success.”
Bailey Gallion is the business and development reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-242-3786.