TAMPA BAY, Florida -- Following reports -- first bythe Lakeland Ledger, thenby10 News -- identifying a surprise $25 million request from the Florida Polytechnic University Board of Trustees, the editorial board for the Tampa Tribune penned an editorial Tuesday entitled, "The Florida Polytechnic Fraud."
Last year Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott made a mockery of Florida's higher education system when they created a 12th university while cutting the existing universities' budgets by $300 million.
Supporters insisted that transforming the University of South Florida's Polytechnic branch campus in Lakeland into an independent university would not cost any additional dollars or harm other universities.
It was all a big fraud, as is abundantly apparent now.
As the Tribune's Jerome Stockfisch reports, Florida Polytechnic University's trustees are asking for an additional $25 million this year, though it has about $109 million to get the university running by 2014. Most of that money was left by USF.
But now the trustees of the unaccredited school with no students say they need more for infrastructure, including landscaping, roads and furniture.
This comes at the same time USF and other universities are struggling to keep buildings safe for students.
Scott, in foolishly signing the Polytechnic measure, said he didn't expect the initial costs to be more than the USF branch. Scott, who never met with USF Polytechnic students or faculty opposed to the move, should have known better.
Instead, he signed the law that resulted in the creation of a new university without a faculty, while USF was charged with completing the education of students who had enrolled in the branch campus.
As Pasco lawmaker Mike Fasano said of Polytechnic's latest request: "It was just common sense. There's no way you can build a 12th university and think they're not going to come back and ask for more money."
The entire Polytechnic debacle was an example of Tallahassee at its most abusive.
JD Alexander, then the powerful chair of the Senate budget committee, rammed through independence because USF didn't respond as quickly as he wanted to his demands for his pet project.
There was no academic review, much less justification, for starting a new university. It was pure power politics that will forever haunt and harm Florida's higher education system.
It will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond to the funding pit they created.
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