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USF Polytechnic report begins to make its case for independence

TAMPA — The University of South Florida Polytechnic, for the first time on Monday night, revealed its plan to split off from the main campus and become its own university.

The 57-page business plan spells out financially and logistically the Lakeland branch campus' vision to become independent. It's one piece of a presentation USF Poly plans to give when the Florida Board of Governors meets Nov. 9 and 10 and is scheduled to discuss the bid for independence.

Some highlights:

• USF Poly says it has already raised more than $51 million since 2008 for programs and capital needs for its new campus.

• Over the last six years, USF Poly has been hiring new full-time staff in areas that are already covered through services it shares as part of the USF system. As a result, losing the benefit of those shared services by splitting off from USF won't cost any additional money, the report says. Instead, the report says, it could save thousands.

• Remaining a branch campus, the report says, will hinder the addition of degree programs in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine disciplines, as well as degrees at the doctoral level.

• Students who can complete their degrees by summer 2013 will have the option of receiving a diploma that states either University of South Florida or University of South Florida Polytechnic Campus. Any students enrolled after that will become part of the new university or can request a one-time-only transfer to any other USF institution.

• The report begins with USF Poly trying to distinguish itself from the state's 11 public universities. "The new polytechnic university will be Florida's first and only public polytechnic."

• And, it concludes with an answer to the question, "Why independence?" which invokes USF president Judy Genshaft. In 2006, when submitting the university's five-year capital improvement plan to the Board of Governors, Genshaft said building a new campus for the Lakeland branch "represents a tremendous enhancement" for USF's plan to provide access to higher education with an emphasis on professional and applied disciplines.

It's worth noting that Genshaft has not publicly taken a stand on the separation issue.

USF Poly released the plan late Monday night after getting an extension from the Board of Governors. The original deadline had been Friday.

USF Poly spokeswoman Samantha Lane said the school put the business plan together mostly on its own, but it did have help from a financial consulting firm it hired earlier this month, Experis ManpowerGroup.

Lane said invoices were not yet available, but a contract between USF Poly and Experis says the total sum is not to exceed $50,000. That money will come from donations in the USF Foundation, said Lane, but she added, "I don't think it was even close to that."

The debate over USF Poly's future has been heating up in recent days, getting closer to the November meeting.

Last week, two state senators called on Genshaft to audit USF Poly's expenditures after an anonymous letter claimed that the campus's leader, Marshall Goodman, mismanaged funds. Genshaft has not yet responded.

Before that, one of the members of the Board of Governors sent a letter to State University System chancellor Frank Brogan, calling the USF Poly discussion "out of control" and a financial threat to the whole state university system.

John Temple noted that the state has already invested millions of dollars into USF Poly's new campus off Interstate 4, which is being designed by renown Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

"We now have a project that the state doesn't need, the students probably don't want, and the state and state university system cannot afford," Temple wrote. "To go forward would be irresponsible and bad public policy."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or 813-226-3337.

USF Polytechnic report begins to make its case for independence 10/24/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 24, 2011 11:12pm]
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