MANATEE -- The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee has been awarded separate accreditation from its Tampa parent.
“It’s a really exciting moment for an already-great university,” Regional Chancellor Arthur Guilford said Monday.
“We are extremely proud that we are now separately accredited, and excited about the possibilities ahead,” he said.
The change means USF’s Manatee County regional campus will be able to design new programs, grant its own degrees, make faculty decisions, award diplomas, and make all advising, admissions and financial decisions here instead of at Tampa, said Guilford.
Word came last week from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a private, non-governmental organization that accredits educational institutions in U.S. southern states.
“It will enable us to decide the direction we wish to go, and simply map out a course of action, rather than having to clear it with Tampa,” Guilford said.
“As long as our accreditation came from Tampa, everything we did needed to be approved there,” he said. “But with independent accreditation, we can make our own decisions.”
Among the changes already under way is preparation to become a four-year institution.
The school now offers courses primarily to junior and senior undergraduates, graduate and continuing education students, but hopes to add freshmen and sophomores within two years.
“My goal is the fall of 2012 for new freshmen,” Guilford said.
USF is also ready with new degree programs starting next fall: A master’s degree in hotel and restaurant management; two new master’s degree programs in the College of Education; and a new undergraduate degree program in speech, language and hearing disorders, he said.
USF Sarasota-Manatee students, however, also have access to the entire USF system, Guilford said.
“We’re part of the USF system; that means you can continue to take classes at any of the four institutions -- Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota-Manatee, and Lakeland Polytechnic,” or online as well, he added.
USF Sarasota-Manatee serves about 4,500 students at two locations -- the main campus at the border of Manatee and Sarasota counties, and another at North Port.
Students, staff, faculty and community leaders have been invited to celebrate at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Main Rotunda, said Missy Cooper, communications and marketing officer.
The celebration will feature a champagne toast and cheese and crackers. On the agenda are short speeches by Guilford and Dr. Bonnie Jones, USF regional vice chancellor for academic affairs, she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.