History of the College

Santa Fe College was established by the state legislature in 1965 as a "community college" to offer wide access to quality higher education for citizens of Alachua and Bradford Counties.

Community colleges are a uniquely American creation. In Florida, in the decade between 1957 and 1967, the legislature created a system of 28 community colleges throughout the state. These were located within commuting distance of 99 percent of the state's population, to ensure that Floridians would have access to affordable higher education.

Since its founding, Santa Fe has pursued its mission of educational opportunity, responsiveness to the community, economic development and innovation in the public interest.

Enrollment has grown rapidly. Fewer than 1,000 students enrolled when classes were first offered in September 1966. Today, more than 18,000 students take credit classes and 12,000 more take non-credit classes. Classes are given at three campus sites in Gainesville: the Northwest Campus, , the Blount Center in downtown Gainesville, and the Kirkpatrick Institute for Public Safety in East Gainesville. In addition, Santa Fe offers classes at the Andrews Center in Starke, the Davis Center in Archer, the Perry Center for Emerging Technologies in Alachua, and the Watson Center in Keystone Heights.

The Northwest Campus, which opened in 1972, is set on 175 acres in Gainesville next to Interstate 75. The Andrews Center opened in 1985 in the renovated Bradford County Courthouse, and expanded in 1991 with the addition of the restored Cultural Building and again in 2003 with the addition of the Lillian Stump Educational Building. The Blount Center opened in 1990 in the renovated 6th Street railroad depot, expanded in 1993 with the addition of the renovated Gainesville Gas Co. Building, and again in 2006 with the new Blount Classroom Building. The Davis Center opened in 2003. The Watson Center opened in 2005 with a second building added in 2006. The Perry Center in Alachua opened in 2009 and expanded in 2010. All the centers were built with funds raised in community drives headed by the SF Foundation and operate to bring educational opportunity to residents in the college's Alachua-Bradford County service district.

The college has expanded education programs by increasing the number of classes offered either online or by live broadcasts to the SF centers. More than 4,000 students take online classes each semester.

SF has benefited from strong and stable leadership. The college has had only four presidents in 45 years. Dr. Joseph W. Fordyce was president from 1965 to 1971, when he was succeeded by Alan J. Robertson. Dr. Larry W. Tyree was named president in 1990 and was succeeded on Jan. 1, 2002 by Dr. Jackson N. Sasser.

The growth and expansion of the college have two main causes: educational programs that are designed to meet the needs of students and community and a helpful learning environment that enables students to do their best.

Originally named Santa Fe Junior College, Santa Fe College became the new name in 2008 when it was authorized by Florida's governor and legislature to offer baccalaureate degrees that meet demand for specific skills needed in the economy. SF now offers Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) degrees in Clinical Laboratory Science and Health Services Administration, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (B.S.N.). More programs will be added as specific needs are identified.

The college's educational offerings still are primarily the Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), and community education programs. The Associate of Arts program consists generally of liberal arts courses. Many students in this program intend to transfer to four-year colleges or universities. SF sends more students to the University of Florida than does any other institution, averaging nearly 1,000 transfers each year.

Career and Technical Education consists generally of A.S., A.A.S. and certificate programs that prepare students for immediate entry into a career, although some programs are transferable to universities. Surveys show that more than 90 percent of students in these programs either enter a career or proceed to further higher education. Community education programs offer non-credit leisure courses for personal growth.

SF's Kirkpatrick Institute of Public Safety educates law enforcement and corrections officer recruits and offers programs to retrain sworn officers. The Kirkpatrick Center also instructs students in the Emergency Medical Services, Fire Sciences and Aviation Sciences programs.

The college is dedicated to economic development for the area. For example, the SF CIED (The Center for Innovation and Economic Development), custom designs short, long and "eLearning" online courses for professionals, businesses, industries and governments, and offers incubator services that enable new businesses to establish themselves.

In all its programs, the college offers classes to suit the schedules of students. In addition to full semesters, SF has classes in a half semester "flexterm" format, evening and "earlybird" classes that can be taken after or before a student goes to work, and classes on Saturdays.

The student-centered learning environment at SF is sustained by a network of counselors, advisors and helpful programs. Academic advisors give recommendations on classes to take. The student development offices help students decide upon a career or further higher education. Academic support programs offer tutoring and personal attention to help if students have difficulty in a subject. The college offers the Little School, an on-campus child care center.

Veterans are honored with active ROTC programs and the SF Veterans Affairs office that serves students at SF and UF.

Academic life is highlighted by an Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, Brain Bowl, a Model United Nations, Research in Undergraduate Education programs and festival, and an International Program that features study abroad in eight foreign countries each year.

Campus life is rounded out with a student government, student clubs, activities and intramural athletics. The college competes intercollegiately in women's fastpitch softball, men's baseball, and men's and women's basketball.

SF offers many cultural activities to enrich the community's quality of life. The Fine Arts Hall on the Northwest Campus is a state-of-the-art, 600-seat theater that hosts numerous performances both by student artists and professionals. The Santa Fe Gallery features local and contemporary artists. Concerts, plays and dance performances offer students experience in the performing arts and enrich the cultural life of the community. The Dance Theatre of Santa Fe and Theatre Santa Fe hold numerous performances annually, serving both the college and the public. Music Santa Fe sponsors workshops and performances in diverse musical traditions. SF's annual Spring Arts Festival attracts 130,000 visitors to Gainesville and is one of the community's largest economic events. Santa Fe's Boots 'n Barbecue is a leading community event in Bradford County.

The college also presents sciences to the public. Adjoining each other in the "Circle of Science" on the SF Northwest Campus are the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium; the Jean Klein Rock Cycle Garden which is a series of large boulders arranged in geological order with interpretative plaques along a circular, park-like walkway; and a geological atrium in Building X that houses rocks, fossils and exhibits. Nearby is the SF North Woods nature preserve with a self guided trail.

Santa Fe's Teaching Zoo is the only nationally accredited zoo on a college campus and attracts nearly 30,000 visitors per year. The college offers to students and researchers its Geological Studies Field Station, a large network of caverns near Newberry in rural Alachua County.

In its first 45 years, Santa Fe College has matured from a small community college of 1,000 students into a strong four-year college offering a rich and wide variety of educational opportunities to more than 27,000 individuals each year on seven campus sites and online. There are 734 full-time employees, of whom 255 are members of the faculty. Part-time employees total more than 900, of whom nearly 300 are students. The annual budget exceeds $77 million. In every way, the college has proven to be a vital part of the communities it serves in north central Florida.

Most recently, Santa Fe College was named the number one community college in the nation by winning the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The college has been in the top 10 of U.S. community colleges since 2012.