USF consolidation advances
By Anne DeLotto Baier '78
As USF moves boldly into a new era of Preeminence, the USF System is working together with community leaders to begin the critical planning needed to consolidate its three separately accredited institutions under a single accreditation umbrella.
The higher education bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March requires USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee to consolidate by July 1, 2020. Although the newly designated Preeminent status was granted based on USF Tampa's metrics, once consolidation takes effect, USF will compete for Preeminence bonus funding based on the combined performance of all three campuses.
Rep. Chris Sprowls of Pinellas County, '06, and a driving force behind the consolidation legislation, says that the regional campuses stand to benefit from receiving a portion of the millions of dollars a year in Preeminence funding accrued by a unified USF, as well as sharing in the prestige that comes with the state designation.
"It's an opportunity for St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee to have a Preeminent university in their community," Sprowls told the Tampa Bay Times. "I think, naturally, it will have them rising together as opposed to being separate limbs."
By consolidating, students in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee will experience a range of potential benefits, including a simplified admissions process, access to more degree programs, increased efficiencies that result in graduating faster and with less debt, and expanded opportunities in graduate or doctoral research. Each campus will maintain its unique identity.
USF System President Judy Genshaft emphasizes that no matter where students take their courses – whether in St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee, Tampa or around the world – all students benefit from being part of a united Preeminent State Research University.
"It's our ability to bring together diverse populations, diverse viewpoints, and diverse ideas that makes us stronger – and it will guide us through this consolidation process," Genshaft says. "As has been true throughout our proud history, we will continue to move forward together. We will remain focused on achieving higher levels of student success, conducting high-impact research, and serving the entire Tampa Bay region. We will persevere in making USF the powerhouse it is. United, the future is ours to shape."
With representation from across the USF System, the faculty, staff and students involved in the consolidation process are taking a collaborative, student-focused approach. A task force, with 13 members appointed by state lawmakers and the university, is also holding a number of public meetings on consolidation and will make recommendations to the USF Board of Trustees by Feb. 15, 2019. The trustees are required to submit an implementation plan to the state Board of Governors by March 15, 2019.
"Consolidation will strengthen our stature as a Preeminent university, expand access and opportunities for students, and further solidify our position as a key driver of future growth and economic development in the Tampa Bay region," says USF Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb, '98 and MBA '17. "Our board is committed to being transparent and collaborative through this process."