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USF Polytechnic students fear split from USF | News

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USF Polytechnic students fear split from USF
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Attending classes at USF Polytechnic in Lakeland is a family affair for Sage Stevens, his wife, and baby girl. Stevens says, "Me and my wife both are studying business. We're both marketing majors and we already have to juggle child care."

He adds, "Sometimes in between class I push the kid around the campus and she comes out of class and we switch off. That will be impossible for us to do going to Tampa."

Sage is set to graduate in the summer after completing one summer school course. He says he worries whether or not summer school courses will even be offered at USF Polytechnic.

Senator JD Alexander has pushed for independence for University of South Florida Polytechnic, which has 4,400 students. He wants to make it the state's 12th university, but the University of South Florida opposes the idea which if approved would split USF Polytechnic off from USF immediately.

Polytechnic students feel that their education is in limbo and that's why they packed into an open forum on Tuesday evening at the school. It was standing room only as their interim regional chancellor, David Touchton, briefed them on the situation and answered their questions.

Touchton told students he spoke with USF President Judy Genshaft about the closed door meeting she had with Senator Alexander on Monday. He says he can understand students concerns.

Touchton says, "If that passes the students, the staff and the faculty will go to Tampa. We'll have no choice." 

But he says students, staff, and faculty need to know President Genshaft has assured him that USF has a team of people working hard for them.

Touchton adds, "(She) has made a pledge to try to make sure that the students, faculty, and staff are taken care of if we lose the USF Poly. Now her desire -- and she told me this -- was for everybody to stay right here."

But if that doesn't happen, Stevens says either he or his wife will have to quit school so the other can finish. He says, "It's disappointing. It's really disappointing because we know we've worked really hard to get where we are now. We're really close and a lot of us feel like we're going to lose that."

Stevens adds, "I'm, like, I think only the second in my family to get a degree, so it's a big thing for me."

Fifty-five students plan to board a bus on Thursday morning to head to Tallahassee to talk to lawmakers about their concerns. Jessica McLemore is the student government secretary at the school. She signed up students on Tuesday evening after the meeting, but says there are still empty seats.

She says students are encouraged to meet at the school at 5:30 a.m. and the bus will leave at 6 a.m. Students need to sign up, however, and can e-mail her at jmclemore1@mail.usf.edu.

McLemore stressed to students the importance of continuing to write to lawmakers about their concerns.

Meanwhile, students had a long list of concerns, like whether or not USF's Tampa campus is able to accommodate all of Polytechnic's students who live in Lakeland, but must travel to Tampa for classes in the evening.

Other students wondered if they even need to bother filling out financial aid forms which are due March 1st. A school official at the meeting said students should fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms (FAFSA) and use the USF school code.

Other students wanted to know about the timing of it all, whether or not they would be able to meet deadlines to enroll in Tampa if the split goes through. Many wondered if the classes might already be full.

Some students wanted to know what happens to a degree program that's offered at Polytechnic but nowhere else.  Touchton told students they do not have answers to many of those questions, but he says they're watching the developments in Tallahassee closely.

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