Florida Poly accreditation will be too late for some grads

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Florida Polytechnic University is taking another step toward becoming fully accredited, President Randy Avent told students, faculty and staff in an email Monday night.

But that still means a handful of students may have to graduate this year from what is now an unaccredited school. One downside: Some employers hesitate or even decline to interview job candidates whose degrees are from unaccredited institutions.

The Lakeland-based school will host members of the Candidacy Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) March 7-10. It’s the “regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states,” its website says.

Florida Poly, founded by conservative former state Sen. JD Alexander, was established as the state’s 12th university in 2012.

“The purpose of this visit is for the Candidacy Committee to validate the information in our initial application and experience Florida Poly in person,” Avent wrote. “They will tour the campus, dine in the Wellness Center and meet with Board members, senior leaders, faculty, staff and students.”

Committee members then will make a recommendation to the association’s Compliance and Reports (C&R) Committee, he said.

“If Florida Poly officially becomes a candidate at that (June) meeting, our next step is to prepare and submit our final application, known as the compliance certification, for accreditation,” Avent added, saying if all goes well the university could be accredited by next June.

“During last night’s meeting of the Legislature’s Education Appropriations Conference Committee, the State Senate offered to adjust the statutory deadline for accreditation to be consistent with this recommendation,” he said.

But, Avent added, with some graduating this year, “… a few graduate students may be affected, and we are working with them now to find the best path forward. We do not expect any undergraduate students to be affected.

“… I assure you we are committed to taking all steps toward accreditation as early as we are given the opportunity, with the success of our students as our topmost priority.”

Avent also is fending off a challenge from the United Faculty of Florida to unionize Florida Poly’s professors.

The UFF said it delivered signed cards from more than 60 percent of faculty members to the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). Under state law, the commission must OK “certification of a faculty collective bargaining unit at the university.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.