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Florida Polytechnic

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DON GONYEA, HOST:

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Florida's 12th university opens to the public Saturday with the grand opening of Florida Polytechnic U. More than 550 students are expected for the first day of class on August 25th. The Lakeland campus is the state's first public university devoted to STEM - science, technology and mathematics.

Choosing the right college or university is usually a big decision for most students, but choosing an untested one was an even bigger decision for Edison Collegiate High School Senior Natalie Ekdahl.

When she told her friends where she was going she says,  “most of them asked what it was, they’d never heard about it. But a few of them, they were excited about it and had heard good things about it too.”

Florida Polytechnic Races To Be Ready by 2014

Jun 24, 2013

Florida’s 12th university still has to work out many details — school color and a mascot, for instance — before the first class is scheduled to arrive in 2014. School officials are considering free tuition to help lure students.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told The Ledger Wednesday that he did not call Florida's newest university a "disaster," as had earlier been reported. He said his remarks to the editorial board of the Tampa Tribune earlier in the week were directed toward a request by Florida Polytechnic for additional state funds.

While Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford says Florida Polytechnic University is "a disaster" that could use an outside ally, he's looking for an entity more like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and not USF -- the university Florida Poly was spun off from.

Speaking to the Tampa Tribune editorial board, the Wesley Chapel Republican presented what he admits is "a crazy idea... go talk to MIT or CalTech or Stanford and see if they want to have a satellite campus in Florida."

Chris Urso / TBO.com

In a move that's prompting a round of "I told you so's" from critics, Florida Polytechnic University trustees are asking state legislators for $25 million in additional funding.

The Tampa Tribune reports those who stood opposed to creating the new university last year are again voicing their displeasure.

"I told my colleagues and I told the governor last year that this was going to be a monstrous cost," said state Rep. Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey who was in the Senate at the time. "Very few people wanted to listen. Now it's coming back to haunt them."

The Select Committee on the new Florida Polytechnic University met Wednesday for the first time. It's likely the transition details will not be completed by the July 1 deadline.

After the creation of Florida Polytechnic, a select committee now has to figure out the details of the transition. But the committee has more questions than answers.

The main problem: Florida Polytechnic still doesn't have a Board of Trustees.

We’ve been asked by several of our listeners about WUSF’s relationship to USF as the station covers the fight over budget cuts to the university. I’d like to take this opportunity to answer some of them.

Why don’t you put a disclaimer on every story you run on USF?

WUSF is part of the University of South Florida. I believe that is very clear to our audience.

USF is part of our call letters. We often announce that we’re a service of the University of South Florida.

USF President Judy Genshaft says there’s one positive side effect of almost having $128 million cut from the budget: seeing the Tampa Bay delegation and community rally around USF.

“We believe the University of South Florida is very strong and will remain strong. And we’ve shown this strength through the outpouring of comments and e-mails and calls,” she said.

“The legislators have heard very loudly that the University of South Florida system: Don’t mess with it.”

Senator JD Alexander has said the the way USF supporters have portrayed proposed budget cuts is unfair.

He says the cuts proposed for USF are justified because of the university's reserves and not that different from other similar institutions, such as UCF.

On Florida Matters, we interviewed USF President Judy Genshaft about how she's dealing with the budget fight and what she calls a "crisis."

Since the Florida Senate unveiled a budget that could lead to over 100 million dollars in cuts to the University of South Florida, reaction has been fast and furious.

When it came to the Senate's proposed budget, USF Vice Provost for Strategic Planning and Budget, Graham Tobin expected his university to take a hit--but not the kind of wallop the Senate delivered.

"We were anticipating some budget cuts given the mood of the state and the politicians, but the degree of change was significant, and, yes, there was some shock."

Some Tampa Bay lawmakers are reacting with anger and defiance to a Senate proposal to cut 58 percent of state funding for the University of South Florida.

Those proposed cuts are more than twice as big as the proposed reductions for other universities, according to an analysis by USF.

Senate Finance Chairman J.D. Alexander of Lake Wales pushed for the cuts after USF President Judy Genshaft opposed him on independence for USF Polytechnic.

Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey didn't mince words today in describing what he thinks of Alexander's actions:

The University of South Florida Board of Trustees is launching a campaign to convince the Florida State Senate not to impose a budget that would cut 58 percent of USF's funding. Other universities face cuts, but more in the 20 to 25 percent range.

At an emergency meeting last night, the trustees discussed the potential impact of the cuts, which include unfunded spending commitments for USF Polytechnic, which would immediate become independent under the Senate legislation.