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Genshaft on Thursday's Senate budget vote: "Moving in the right direction"

A day after the Senate voted to restore $46 million in funding to the University of South Florida, Judy Genshaft celebrated a victory.

"Things are moving in the right direction," Genshaft told the Times/Herald.

Weeks earlier, the university president was in Tallahassee lobbying Legislators to save USF from what many saw as unfair and vindictive budget cuts amid Sen. JD Alexander's push to make the school's Lakeland branch campus independent. After many phone calls, e-mails and some hard work by Tampa Bay senators behind the scenes, USF got closer to the cuts of similar institutions. 

The work is not done, Genshaft said. She's hopeful for the restoration of another $3 million of the $6 million she said USF needs for its pharmacy school. Housed at USF Tampa, the program's funding comes through USF Polytechnic, with senators voted to split off on Thursday. An amendment filed by Sen. Jim Norman would USF back the other half.

As for the decision to split the campus off in the first place, Genshaft said that was already out of her hands. The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, made the decision in November to let USF Polytechnic break away. The Senators' vote on Thursday shortcut that decision.

One of the looming questions around that split is how the new university, if broken off immediately, would be accredited. Under the BOG plan, USF Poly would remain with USF until it gained that status separately, among other benchmarks. Genshaft hopes to learn more next week, when she visits the Atlanta office of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Alexander has recently said SACS assured him the school could become separately accredited as soon as July -- even though that process typically takes three to five years. SACS has not returned calls from the Times/Herald seeking comment.

Genshaft said she hadn't heard what Alexander did. She asked USF's accreditation specialist to research it, but they couldn't find anything to tell them it could happen that quickly.

"I am not saying it's not true. I simply don't know," Genshaft said. "We're trying to move this along as quickly as possible, so if there is that type of accreditation, I'd like to learn about it."