Back to the consolidation drawing board

After much pushback on the consolidation plan presented last month, USF President Steve Currall took the criticism into consideration.

On Sept. 10, Currall presented the consolidation preliminary framework plan to the Board of Trustees (BOT) and was told by state and USF representatives that too much authority was being given to the Tampa campus.

The “2.0 consolidation blueprint,” shared with the USF community Thursday, provides the branch campuses — St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — with the ability to preserve its local campus identities like the representatives hoped for.

The consolidation update was sent in a systemwide email explaining the branch campus administrative responsibilities.

“There have been many deliberations among key stakeholders, including our regional chancellors; deans, department chairs and members of the faculty, staff and students from all three campuses; community supporters and legislators,” Currall said in the email. “We have welcomed the feedback and have been encouraged by many productive ideas.”

The updates granted USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook and USF St. Pete Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock more involvement in academic and budgetary decisions.

There will be more academic authority available at the branch campuses with the expansion of  “nursing, public health, architecture and community design and engineering” at those locations.

This is in lieu of the branch campuses having to report to the Tampa campus as proposed last month.

The revised plan also discussed programs and fees for students.

Advising, student advocacy, mental health counseling, financial aid and career services will still be provided at each individual campus at a local level. The plan said this will be done to “ensure that all students have expedient and equitable access to the support they need, wherever they may be.”

In regards to student fees, all students will pay the same amount post-consolidation. But, the plan said students will not be responsible for paying for services that are not available at their home campus.

The plan states that “student fees at the branch campuses shall not be used to pay for a disproportionate share of fixed costs or otherwise be used to subsidize the costs of services being provided primarily to students on the parent campus.”

This begs the question of how campus-specific fees will be consolidated.

For example, Tampa and St. Pete students currently pay a transportation fee whereas Sarasota-Manatee students don’t.

Also, only Tampa students pay a $1.50 per credit hour fee to fund the Marshall Student Center.

Currall will present refinements to the consolidation framework at the BOT meeting Dec. 3.

USF has to be completely consolidated by the July 1, 2020 deadline.