USF President Judy Genshaft met with the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Tuesday to discuss the timeline for the USF Polytechnic split and discovered what many Floridians following the issue were assuming.
Polytechnic could not be accredited as its own university by July, an idea that was widely touted by state Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales. At minimum, it would take 18 months for Polytechnic to complete accreditation under the current course of action approved by the Board of Governors.
If the Florida House passes the bill and Gov. Rick Scott signs it, it could take the school three years at minimum to become Florida Polytechnic University and at least the first graduating class would graduate from an unaccredited school. Under this plan of action, Polytechnic would still be its own university by July, but wouldn’t be accredited.
At this point, it would benefit Polytechnic to stay under USF’s umbrella until it reaches accreditation. Even if Florida Polytechnic University was to offer a unique degree to reel students in, it would be unwise for a student to attend an unaccredited school.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accredited schools are those that have met certain standards of quality and are considered reliable authorities on higher education. This also means that future employers recognize that the student had a valid and useful education.
If students attend Poly before it is accredited, they would not be eligible for financial aid and federal grants, posing another roadblock in the way of these students.
If students have little interest in going to an unaccredited school, it may cause financial issues for the university if it is unable to register enough students to pay tuition that would keep the school afloat. To keep up with the July deadline, Polytechnic must have at least 1,224 students – a large number for a school with no accreditation or financial aid that is currently just a dirt field in Lakeland.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, if Polytechnic remains part of USF until it achieves accreditation, students have the opportunity to receive degrees from USF, an accredited university, and can even take classes at the Lakeland campus. But if Polytechnic “divorces” USF before becoming accredited, students may not have that option.
Right now, Polytechnic will remain part of USF until it achieves accreditation. This is the plan that was originally set out by the BOG, is the timeliest and offers the best options for students during the transition.
Although the bill passed the Senate with a vote of 35-4, it passed in a flurry of what is now known to be misinformation. If the bill is adopted, no one will benefit from it – not the students not the faculty and not the school itself.