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Alexander sees USF Poly split happening by this summer

Sen. JD Alexander wasn't ready to talk Tuesday about amendments filed by Sen. Jim Norman, which aim to give the University of South Florida back a big chunk of the funding Alexander proposed cutting from the school. Instead, Alexander offered some insight into the timetable he envisions for the state's new 12th university.

If all goes according to Alexander's plan, Florida Polytechnic could be separately accredited by July, he said. That would first require approval of a conforming bill slipped into Alexander's budget that would split USF Polytechnic off from USF immediately. And it would require expedited work from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools --  to accredit USF Poly as a separate campus of USF, and then put in a change order to give the campus accreditation as a separate institution. Accrediting the school completely independently could take another six months to a year, he said. Alexander said he recently got assurance from SACS that that's possible. 

Typically, gaining SACS accreditation takes three to five years.

Once the school is separately accredited, Alexander said his hope is to have a separate, non-USF campus board overseeing the Polytechnic's fiduciary activities. Members of that board would be appointed by Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Governors, Alexander said.

Alexander said Scott is "trying to stay out of the fight."

"I think at the end of the day he supports independence and generally the board's decision," Alexander said. "If we come up with a fairer, firmer way to get there... I would expect that it would be something he could support. But we'll see."

Scott has said publicly he's not sure creating a 12th university in the current economic climate is wise, especially when other state universities are having to shoulder budget cuts. Scott also said it seems the benchmarks laid out by the Florida Board of Governors to get to that end seem like a good idea. Those benchmarks would delay the campus's split from USF until gaining accreditation, increasing enrollment and completing two of the buildings on the new campus. Alexander's plan would have the campus split off right away.