This week in Tallahassee has been a good one for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The campus gained $3.5 million in its base budget in the state's 2019-20 spending plan that the Florida Legislature is set to approve today, which should enable it to hire more faculty and make other improvements. It also gained valuable protection as work continues to consolidate USF's three campuses into one major research university.
Buried in a broad education bill is a provision that ensures USFSP will be formally considered a branch campus. It also makes clear that a branch campus has its own faculty, its own administration and its own authority to develop budgets and hire staff. That is a big win for the St. Petersburg campus, and it should end any lingering efforts to micromanage from the main campus in Tampa.
This is more than bureaucratic language. Being formally designated as a branch campus with all of the authority that brings is important in the accreditation process. It also better enables the campus to hire quality faculty and tailor programs to meet the particular needs of its students and the broader community.
As USF president Judy Genshaft prepares for retirement and new president Steve Currall takes over this summer, there remain countless details to sort out about the consolidation. But this legislation, HB 7071, should remove any doubt about the status of the St. Petersburg campus. Credit goes to Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, for ensuring USFSP will be a branch campus with the flexibility that brings. Sprowls pushed the bill last year that triggered the consolidation, and this legislation reflects his commitment to the long-term success of the St. Petersburg campus.