Sen. J.D. Alexander overlooked one key component in his proposal to cut USF’s state funding by nearly 60 percent—the students that would have to deal with the fallout.
Alexander’s proposal would pillage $79 million of state money from USF. An additional $25 million was to be held in contingency to ensure USF’s cooperation in a plan to turn USF Polytechnic in Lakeland into the state’s 12th public university, independent of the USF system. That part of the plan was abandoned.
The proposed budget calls for a total $400 million reduction in state funding to Florida public universities. USF would receive the highest percentage reduction. State funding to the University of Florida would be cut by 26 percent, and funding to Florida State University would be cut by 22 percent. The imagined Florida Polytechnic—the newly independent public university that would be born from USF Polytechnic splitting from the USF system—would not receive any cuts in state funding.
The plan has been called a political move, with Alexander—for whom the creation of the new Florida Polytechnic has been an ongoing dream—being vocal about his desire to see these cuts go through.
Alexander had said that he had “lost faith in USF’s ability to usher USF Poly toward independence,” according to a Feb. 14 report in the Tampa Bay Times. The Florida Board of Governors had voted in favor of USF Poly independence pending its ability to meet certain criteria like obtaining separate accreditation, completing some new buildings and increasing enrollment—a plan the board expected to take several years.
This apparently is not good enough for Alexander.
Whatever his motives may be for insisting on staggering cuts for a well established university that as a $3.7 billion annual economic impact on the region, his motives seem not to have anything to do with the students paying thousands of dollars for a Florida public education. Should his preferred plan go through, USF would lose an additional $6 million, which now goes to the USF College of Pharmacy housed at USF Polytechnic. USF would have to absorb another $18 million in faculty, staff and student costs as USF Polytech inches toward independence.
USF Polytechnic would become independent and escape any budget cuts in the current year, but would lose accreditation that it now has from being a part of the USF system. Students attending the new Florida Polytechnic would be paying for degrees from unaccredited programs, on a campus without the infrastructure or enrollment of a reasonable college experience.
The current proposal does not make any sense for the students who would likely see their tuition costs inflate even more for the sake of one man and a committees’ plan to create a new university out of thin air. The cost of getting an education keeps going up, and flailing state and federal budgets are pushing the amount of scholarships and assistance students receive down.
Putting more strain on cash strapped students already wondering about the value of their degrees and staring into an uncertain economic future because of big, ill conceived plans for a 5-building campus is misguided, bad for the state, and bad for the students it expects to carry its future.