Florida’s New Public University Faces Uncertainty in Legislature

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed legislation last year to turn a University of South Florida branch campus into the state’s 12th public university. The effort to create the institution was pushed forward by J.D. Alexander, the Republican president of the State Senate, who is no longer in office. Mr. Alexander’s legacy project is now facing questions in the Legislature, however, as the Senate has cut $22-million for the not-yet-built institution from its education budget. And the speaker of the state’s House of Representatives said he’s open to considering whether the institution belongs in the university system.

“We do have the responsibility to make the best lemonade that we possibly can out of the situation and hopefully turn that into a world-class institution,” Weatherford told reporters Thursday. “The Board of Governors (which oversees the university system) and the Board of Trustees should get creative about what that institution could be.”

Asked if that meant not turning it into the state’s 12th university, Weatherford replied: “Yes.”

He suggested it could team up with another existing state university, such as the University of Florida, or MIT or polytechnics out of state, in effect turning the school into a satellite campus for another university.

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