ST. PETERSBUG, Fla. — A bill proposed in the Florida House would combine three USF universities into one accredited university system.
Currently USF St. Petersburg, USF Sarasota-Manatee, and USF Tampa all have their own accreditation, but that could change if new legislation is passed.
“We used to not have our own separate accreditation and we had to go through Tampa for everything and faculty that was there at that time could tell you that it was a mess,” Samantha Fiore a sophomore at USF St. Pete said. “And, we have come a long long way as a university and we have so many things to be proud about.”
Fiore said she is part of USF student government. On Thursday, they held a policy committee meeting to discuss what position student government should take on the issue.
“They are kind of keeping us in the dark and I disagree with that as well I feel we should know exactly what is going on and what could happen,” Fiore said.
Common questions we heard from students were about how the school would be run? Would their tuition go up? Would the campus grow to a larger size to accommodate more students? And what the new accreditation would mean for students graduating around the time it is implemented. Students said there are pros and cons but they need more information. Some even starting an online petition against the bill.
"I feel like the Florida legislation said ‘this is happening and you can’t stop it,’” USF St. Pete student Anthony Greggo said. "There needs to be a conversation.”
The class size, environment, and campus are also a part of the charm students don’t want to lose.
“I did apply to USF St. Pete, “Jadzia Duarte said. “I didn’t apply to Tampa, I didn’t apply to Sarasota, I applied here for special reasons like our small campus.”
University officials told ABC Action News that under the current proposal the USF Board of Trustees would have until Jan. 15, 2019 to develop an implementation plan and the separate accreditation for USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee would have to be phased no later than June 30, 2020.
USF System President Judy Genshaft released this statement:
At the University of South Florida, one of our most important guiding principles is our unity. That was true when we were founded in 1956 and is true today. It’s our ability to bring together diverse populations, diverse viewpoints, and diverse ideas that makes us stronger. It is true no matter where our students take their courses — be that in St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee, Tampa or around the world.
A bill currently moving through the Florida Legislature could enhance that unity by bringing all three of our institutions together under one accreditation umbrella which is more in line with others in the Florida State University System. This is an important issue that many members of the USF community feel strongly about - on both sides.
We have begun a series of community conversations about what might happen should this legislation become law and how we will manage that process. These conversations are being led by Trustees Stephanie Goforth and Byron Shinn, the leaders of our Campus Boards at USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee, respectively, and senior staff within the USF System.
It is still early, but we believe there is the potential for significant benefits to our students. Benefits like enhancing the reputation of the entire USF System and having all students graduate from a preeminent research university, or helping students graduate faster and with less debt by providing a wider variety of course options and majors including those in health care and engineering. Or the benefits of graduate research and PhD opportunities in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee.
Through these community conversations we believe even more benefits to our students and the Tampa Bay Area will emerge as we begin to develop a vision for the future. Informed by diverse members of the community, by our students, faculty and staff, as well as key members of the Florida Legislature, we will examine the opportunities and challenges of a unified system and together, we will unite behind a common vision. A vision to make a difference in this world.