Typical Tallahassee wheeling and dealing allowed for language to be written into the Senate’s version of the budget for the University of South Florida Polytechnic, located in picturesque Lakeland, to become the State University System of Florida’s 12th independent university.
The Board of Governors, the state agency charged with overseeing SUSF, agreed (unfortunately) to a plan for USF Polytechnic to become “Florida Polytechnic University” and to sever the colonial relationship with Fowler Avenue during it’s November meeting, provided that USF Poly meet certain benchmarks to achieve independence from Tampa. It is alleged that “Florida Polytechnic University” would be a magnate for students perusing Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics—STEM—degrees. But let us first take a stroll down the boulevard of recent Florida history.
After JFK announced his “New Frontier” for the United States that would put an American on the moon, launched from Cape Kennedy, Fla., before the end of 1969. Florida decided that it should build a “Space University” to capitalize on the increased attention on engineering fields, off of Alafaya Boulevard.
However, like everything else that the State of Florida does, the “Space University” or as it was officially known: Florida Technological University, FTU, was funded on the cheap. Instead Florida Tech never fully realized its potential and became another state university. The legislature changed the name of the school to the University of Central Florida in 1978. Throughout its history UCF has grown to become the country’s second largest university in terms of enrollment and largest in terms of land size. However, it has failed to realize its role as the “Space University.” Thank you Tallahassee.
USF Polytechnic “complains” that it is fourth in line (behind USF, USFSP and USF Sarasota-Manatee) when it comes to funding from the USF system. Do the power brokers of Lakeland really think that an independent “Florida Polytechnic University” would fair better being the youngest of 12 at Tallahassee’s table for university funding (competing with UF, FSU, FAMU, USF, UCF, FAU, FIU, UWF, UNF, FGCU and New College of Florida)?
UCF and USF both have excellent engineering programs. There is no reason why another centre of higher education, which would compete for funding, should be located between the two along the I-4 Corridor.
The current movement for USF Polytechnic to become independent is only to serve the interests of a select few in Polk County, not the citizens of Florida. This secession mission would result in another university being added to SUSF, which is already struggling to meet the funding needs of the current 11 members. This additional university would place an emphasis on STEM curricula, when the focus should be on giving the current universities more money in these fields rather than divert valuable resources to a new university that will inevitably become “just another university.”