Contrary to what Sen. JD Alexander has been saying around the state Capitol, separate accreditation for the University of South Florida Polytechnic under USF could not happen by July. A more realistic expectation is probably a year and a half at the earliest.
That was the message USF President Judy Genshaft brought back Tuesday from Atlanta, where she and other state higher education leaders met with the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Splitting USF Poly away from the school immediately would prolong the accreditation process even more, Genshaft said, by at least three years. And in that case, at least the first cohort of the new university's students would have to graduate from a non-accredited institution.
“We asked if there were any other models that we knew of,” Genshaft said. "And there were no other models that she brought up."
Genshaft scheduled the meeting with SACS long before the Senate voted to immediately split off USF Poly from the main campus. A priority for powerful Senate budget chairman Alexander, that proposal was slipped into a budget bill and approved 35-4 last week.
It veers away from the USF Poly independence track already laid out by the Florida Board of Governors, which made separate accreditation a prerequisite. It also required that the school have an enrollment of 1,244 students with half of them in science, technology engineering and math, and complete at least two of the buildings on its now empty campus site.
Until told differently, that’s the path Genshaft is following. It’s also the path that’s preferred by Gov. Rick Scott, who would need to sign off on Alexander’s bill, pending approval by the House, before it becomes a reality.