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USF plan waits for governors pen

The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) met Thursday in Jacksonville to discuss the 2012-2025 strategic plan. However, until Gov. Rick Scott makes his decision on the Florida Legislatures budget, USF will have to wait before finalizing its own plan.

Strategic Planning Committee Chairman Chris Corr said during the meeting that strategic planning relies heavily on numbers much of which will be determined by the governors office for USF.

The magic is in the metrics, Corr said.

Vice Provost for Strategic and Budget Planning Graham Tobin said though USFs strategic plan is in line with the BOGs, until the University gets further word from the governor, most of USFs planning will be focused on the upcoming summer session.

We have cash reserves, but theyre all encumbered really, he said. Were going to be using up most of our cash reserves (this summer), and it will be tough next year and well have to look very closely at what were doing and how were spending our money. Until we get more feedback, its going to be very difficult for us to know where we stand Weve got some major challenges ahead, but we will come through and we will be a stronger institution. But its going to hurt in some places.

Its too soon to determine which places will be hurt, he said. If the current budget and conforming bill to create an independent Polytechnic University were to pass unamended, the Tampa campus would lose about 20 percent of its existing funding about $37 million, Tobin said.

Yet if tuition were to increase by 15 percent the number the Legislature allowed each university to increase it by last fiscal year USF could recover between $16 million and $17 million.

Tobin said he personally thinks raising tuition is essential to keeping up with USFs and the BOGs goals.

I think we have to (raise tuition), he said. Given the size of the cuts, if we dont, we will experience many more problems. Students are still paying a relatively small amount. I think were going to have to, as much as it hurts. We dont want to reduce the quality (of education). I could be wrong, though.

But balancing quality with access is something USF will continue to strive for, he said, as the University devotes 30 percent of incoming tuition money to financial aid.

Its obviously very tricky, he said. We have great diversity on campus and by diversity, I mean socio-economic diversity as well and we need to maintain that. That is good. Its healthy to our institution. And were very sensitive of the wide cast of students that come to USF.

While many of the BOGs goals, such as focusing on commercialization and business engagement, are already met by USFs external partnerships, others like increasing the number of students who graduate each year will be more difficult to accomplish with the proposed cuts.

Tobin said USFs satellite campuses Sarasota-Manatee and St. Petersburg could help graduate more students while keeping the Tampa campus around its current level of enrollment and focused on research.

However, if the governor approves turning the former Polytechnic branch campus into a new university, USFs overall strategic plans could be impacted beyond just graduation rates, he said.

Each (branch campus has its) own initiatives, and Polytechnic was a part of that, he said. The whole system had a great variety of diversity to enhance opportunities for students. Whatever happens, both with the budget cuts and with Polytechnic, the students are up front.

BOG Select Committee on Polytechnic Chairman Mori Hosseini said Thursday that the board would follow the governors decision in regards to making USF Polytechnic a separate university.

If the governor signs it into law, then we will go forward with that, we will go to the right, he said. If he vetoes it, well go to the left. We will have everything ready to go forward both ways … Once the governor signs it, our job will be to follow the law. Its not our job to question what the Legislature or the governor does, because rather (we) are representatives of the people of Florida. We are appointees.