TAMPA — Calling the move a "win-win-win-win," the presidents of the University of South Florida and three local community colleges announced a partnership Wednesday that gives graduates of the colleges a guaranteed path to a USF degree.
The state already allows a Florida student with a two-year degree to transfer to a Florida university. But until now, they had no assurance they could get into the university of their choice.
This new agreement promises that students from Hillsborough Community College, Pasco-Hernando Community College and St. Petersburg College can come to USF. They also will get preferential admission to certain upper-division programs.
"It's all about partnerships," said USF president Judy Genshaft, who said the consortium offers a model for the rest of the state. "This is just a great example of us working together."
The agreement signed Wednesday has been in the works for a year, the school presidents said, and formalizes the collaborative spirit that exists between the institutions.
St. Petersburg College president Bill Law said it creates a "mosaic" of higher education opportunity in the region.
Ken Atwater, president of Hillsborough Community College, used the phrase "win-win-win-win."
And Pasco-Hernando Community College president Katherine Johnson said it represents a commitment to keep Florida students in-state.
In addition to giving students an easier transition between the institutions, the presidents hope the partnership will help attract grants and economic development to the region. They want to work together wherever possible, which includes aligning programs to reduce unnecessary duplication and finding ways to share faculty and staff.
The resolution also lays out a noncompete agreement, saying the college partners will not seek to offer bachelor's degrees, or invite other baccalaureate providers to their campuses, unless USF declines to provide whatever program they want to add.
On the other side, USF agrees not to develop programs that would compete with programs already available at those colleges.
The presidents deflected questions about whether that clause is meant to combat a recent rise in community colleges offering four-year degrees, saying the Florida Department of Education already vets any new baccalaureate programs.
"There has always been a good relationship with USF," Atwater said. "We're just formalizing it. We want everyone to know we're in this together."
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