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New USF consolidation plan earns praise from lawmakers

Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.

The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for consolidation Thursday, and just about everyone seems happy with it.

Unlike the original plan outlined by USF president Steve Currall in September, the new one promises that regional chancellors leading campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota will retain authority over academics, budgets and hiring.

It also calls for more equal distribution of academic programs at those locations and the larger Tampa campus, as well as for investment in
“centers of excellence” that will highlight each site’s strengths.

CATCH UP HERE: New USF consolidation plan promises authority to leaders in St. Petersburg and Sarasota

Response to the plan was positive as it circulated Friday. State lawmakers who criticized Currall’s original plan praised him for listening to their feedback and changing course.

State Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, had been one of the most critical, writing a letter to the president last month that said his vision did “not comport with the letter or intent” of state laws that govern the consolidation process.

RELATED: State lawmakers tell USF: Rework your consolidation plan or we will

But on Twitter Friday, he praised Currall’s efforts and seemed pleased with the new plan.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, also was frustrated with the first plan. He threatened to bring the issue to other state leaders if Currall didn’t address lawmakers’ complaints.

Then in an interview Friday, he said USF is "exceeding the expectation that the legislature has set, and we’re excited about the new direction.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who led the push for consolidation and helped shape the new plan, said on Twitter that it honors the lawmakers’ vision and “lays out an exciting path forward."