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Florida lawmakers support branch campuses at USF. Now it’s up to the governor.

If signed into law, a bill passed by the Florida House and Senate Thursday would force the university to keep strong leadership on all three campuses through consolidation.

A bill requiring the University of South Florida system to preserve independence on its smaller campuses through consolidation is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Both chambers of the Florida Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 7071 Thursday. Now, it’s up to Gov. Ron DeSantis whether to sign it into law.

There has been debate about the post-consolidation makeup of USF in recent months, while the university works through plans to organize its three campuses under one accreditation by 2020 as requested by lawmakers last year.

RELATED: As USF steers closer to consolidating, a big decision remains

While some have suggested USF’s smaller campuses come under the authority of USF Tampa as a main campus, students, faculty and leaders in St. Petersburg and Sarasota disagree.

They say those locations must maintain the independence that has helped them thrive. And the only way to ensure that is by deeming them “branch” campuses rather than “instructional sites" that would have little autonomy.

MORE: USF St. Petersburg ‘must be a branch campus,’ students say

Should the bill become law, USF will be forced to make St. Petersburg and Sarasota branch campuses, keeping control of budgets, hiring and curriculum hyper-local.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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