Governor Approves USF Polytechnic

LAKELAND, Fla. (Jun. 11, 2008) – With two strokes of his pen, Gov. Charlie Crist gave the green light to USF Polytechnic. Crist signed a bill Tuesday giving the University of South Florida Lakeland the same autonomy as other branch campuses in the USF system and officially establishing its new name: USF Polytechnic. Today the governor signed the 2008-09 state budget, providing USF with $15 million next fiscal year to begin construction of Phase I of the new USF Polytechnic campus. The new name captures the new mission of the campus, which began as a satellite facility in 1988, serving students in and around Polk County.

"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. “This step forward for higher education will place this campus on the same level as other campuses of the University of South 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. I look forward to the great work and continuing commitment to research and education from this promising institution."

According to USF President Judy Genshaft, "This is a great day for the University of South Florida and for the state of Florida. It is an affirmation of USF's commitment to principles of access and excellence in public higher education, and it recognizes the strong regional campus model we are building."

USF Lakeland CEO and Vice President Marshall Goodman echoed those sentiments, calling the name change a landmark event for public education and economic development in the region. "Our focus of applied teaching and research clearly establishes a niche within the USF system, and it recognizes a tremendous fit with Florida's High Tech Corridor, drawing the kind of jobs and talent that will be vital for our region's future."

In the announcement and its aftermath, Crist, Genshaft and Goodman all cited the leadership of USF Lakeland's legislative champions, Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) and Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland). According to Goodman, "Those two men have been absolute heroes. This region is very fortunate to have such superb representation in Tallahassee, and Florida is the better for it."

USF has developed a strategy of "mission differentiation" for the regional campuses within its system. Those campuses are located in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Lakeland. The St. Petersburg campus has already received separate accreditation, and the Lakeland and Sarasota campuses are now on the path to doing the same.

“This is a strategy for access to higher education," Genshaft said. "Less than one in four adult Floridians has a bachelor's degree, and that lack of education hurts the state economically. USF, through the Tampa and regional campuses, will continue to be a catalyst for the Tampa Bay region and west central Florida."

USF is also preparing to develop a new campus at the intersection of I-4 and the Polk Parkway. Work on that project began in 1999. The Board of Governors of the State University System, the governor, and the Florida House and Senate have all recommended providing USF with $15 million next fiscal year to begin construction of Phase I of the new campus. Plans call for those funds to be supplemented with an additional $20 million over the next two years and matched by $30 million generated through fund-raising initiatives.

The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is one of Florida's top three research universities. USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The University offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The University has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

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