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USF to accept fewer transfer students
The cost-cutting measure will make better use of its branch campuses, officials say.
By Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008
TAMPA - The University of South Florida will significantly limit the number of transfer students it accepts each year, in a cost-cutting move aimed at reducing enrollment on the main campus - while shifting some students to the roomier regional branches.
The new transfer policy will allow USF, the state's third-largest institution, to reduce enrollment by 2,500 over three years, as suggested recently by the university system chancellor.
Administrators say that while the policy is driven by about $50-million in painful budget cuts, it does have an upside.
It will help the research university improve the caliber of its students. And it will make better use of branch campuses such as St. Petersburg - perhaps bolstering a politically tricky bid for $15-million to build a campus in Lakeland.
"The budget climate is creating some very real and difficult situations for the university, but on the other hand there's some opportunities here," said USF provost Ralph Wilcox.
Starting in fall 2008, USF administrators will "cut back significantly" on freshmen and sophomores wanting to transfer from other colleges, Wilcox said.
"There will always be some exceptions, but those transfers tend to be less-successful students who for one reason or another did not have success at another institution."
USF also will be more discriminating with its upper-level transfers, many of them community college graduates, who will now find the competition to become a USF Bull is much tougher.
Upper-level transfers represent half of USF's annual 8,000-student transfer population. Wilcox said the goal is to "maintain those numbers" but improve their quality.
"If you've got a 3.0, and a degree from a community college, your future is pretty assured here," Wilcox said. "If you have a 2.0, it's unlikely you'll be admitted."
USF's new limits on transfer students are similar to changes already in place at other Florida public universities.
The University of North Florida this past fall stopped taking lower-division transfer students who haven't already earned an associate's degree, or 60 hours of college credits.
FSU has adopted a similar policy, and admissions officials recently sent letters to about 2,000 transfer applicants to remind them that only Florida community college associate's degree graduates will be considered for summer and fall admission this year, said admissions director Janice Finney.
The University of Florida hasn't made any such changes, but spokesman Steve Orlando conceded "it's not something we're ruling out."
The 11 universities have already lost more than $150-million this year and expect to lose as much as $171-million the next, thanks to the state's more than $2-billion deficit.
USF will lose about $25-million from this year's budget, Wilcox said, and probably another $25-million or so next year.
The Board of Governors last month ordered universities to deal with the money woes by whatever means necessary - cutting enrollment, limiting or ending transfer student admissions, laying off faculty, eliminating academic programs.
The chancellor followed up with a memo suggesting enrollment statewide be reduced from nearly 300,000 today to 281,000 by 2011.
FSU will cut its freshman class from 6,200 this year to 5,300 in the fall.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook," Finney said. "It's not something we want to do to students, but we just don't want to reduce the quality of the education here."
Without more resources, university leaders warn that they will continue to turn away hardworking high school graduates with 3.0 averages.
"This is the worst denial of opportunity for qualified young men and women," Florida International University president Mitch Maidique told lawmakers in Tallahassee this week. "We view the system as facing the biggest threat that it has in its history."
Times Staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3403.