USF Lakeland gets funding

USF Lakeland can now build its new campus on the corner of Polk Parkway and Interstate 4 and change its name.

Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Tuesday potentially allowing USF Lakeland (USFL) autonomy from the Tampa campus. He signed another bill Wednesday that approved the $15 million USF Lakeland (USFL) needed for its expansion.

Tuesday’s bill also recognizes the school’s new name, USF Polytechnic, as of July 1.

“I am pleased to sign into law today Senate Bill 186, establishing the University of South Florida Lakeland campus as the University of South Florida Polytechnic,” said Crist in a written statement released Tuesday. “This step forward for higher education will place this campus on the same level as other campuses of the University of South Florida.”

“I’m absolutely delighted that Gov. Crist has signed the bill forming USF Polytechnic,” Provost Ralph Wilcox said.

USF Polytechnic will be the first of its kind in Florida.

“With this legislation, the institution will become the state’s first polytechnic campus, strengthening our commitment to higher education, training a highly-skilled workforce and increasing economic benefits for the growing Central Florida region,” Crist said.

Director of University Advancement of USFL David Steele credited this step “to to the leadership and vision of President (Judy) Genshaft.”

He said the next step for USF Polytechnic is to move toward separate accreditation under the direction of the USF system.

“We’ll be working to pull that transition off as seamlessly as possible,” Steele said.

USF Polytechnic will offer a different selection of degrees than the Tampa campus but will not offer doctoral programs.

Michael Hoad, vice president of communications at USF Tampa, said the eventual goal is for USF Polytechnic to receive its own accreditation and regional chancellor, like USF St. Petersburg.

“Each of the four campuses of the University of South Florida system has the opportunity to mature into a separately accredited institution,” Wilcox said.

Though the $15 million to build the new campus has been approved, Phase I of the new campus is not scheduled for completion until the 2010-2011 school year. The name change, however, will take place at the present campus next month.

“There will be no more USF Lakeland. USF Polytechnic will have a presence here on our current campus and on the new campus when it’s built,” Steele said.

Wilcox said USFL has been actively striving for autonomy since January 2008, but the idea has been under discussion for a number of years.

“We can’t wait for them to start building the new campus,” he said.