During its final meeting of 2018 Tuesday, the University of South Florida Board of Trustees outlined progress on and future steps for consolidating its three campuses — St. Petersburg, Sarasota/Manatee and Tampa — into one single accreditation.
The three campuses currently work under separate accreditation, but the state passed a plan to integrate them earlier this year.
Efforts so far outline how the USF system will bring the campuses together without affecting USF St. Pete’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business. Consolidation rules allow only one college per subject area. All three USF campuses have business colleges.
The consolidation committee is recommending one business college with two individual schools of business, which would protect the Tiedemann program, a priority for Pinellas County elected officials.
The Consolidation Implementation Committee established to oversee the process must submit its final considerations to USF leadership by the end of the year. University administrators will review recommendations through February 2019 with an implementation plan ready by mid-February of the same year.
The plan must outline how USF will maintain its preeminence and avoid impeding any student progress toward graduation.
The current proposal maintains the Tampa campus as the school’s main artery and would establish St. Pete and Sarasota as either branch campuses or instructional sites.
The school cannot have separate mission statements for each of its three campuses, as it does now, but can rewrite the existing mission statement to better reflect a regional system.
The process also requires uniformed degree curricula regardless of campus. The consolidation committee has already established uniformed general education criteria.
Progress so far includes agreement on a unified faculty senate as well as preliminary bylaws for that body. The committee also aligned admissions, enrollment and financial aid policies for all three campuses.
School administrators will also have to provide an assessment of how consolidation will affect resources on all campuses and requires fiscal allocations to support each campus during consolidation.
Board of Trustees members also addressed how to create better mobility between campuses under a consolidated model where, ostensibly, some students will be taking classes at more than one campus.
The current plan suggests better digital connections including video conferencing and online content. It also recommends a wifi-enabled bus to transport faculty, staff and students.
“We’re going to get some of this right, but we’re going to mess up on some,” said Board of Trustees member Byron Shinn. “But, everyone is really excited and has a great attitude.”
The consolidation process has already been underway for 30 weeks. During that time, USF staff and committee members have held seven task force meetings, 26 subcommittee meetings and hearings, interviewed 73 subject matter experts and have received more than 1,600 pages of background material and 100 public comments.
The process requires a substantive change prospectus outlining how the school is meeting all of its consolidation criteria by March 15 of 2020 with a single accreditation in place by July 1, 2020.
“We are going to have to pull together this plan. The logistics of that are something we’re going to start needing to look at,” said Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb. “How do we pull this together?”
Lamb suggested, and the board agreed, holding a special trustee meeting in January to go over implementation strategies to streamline information coming from two different committees looking into the process — one internal and the other through a hired consultant.
“At the end of the day one of the fundamental goals [is] student success,” Lamb said.