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New financial aid rule helps USF's summer enrollment

Officials say an increase in summer enrollment might be due to a state scholarship.

By JOE HUMPHREY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 2000


TAMPA -- The University of South Florida's summer enrollment is booming, thanks partly to a financial incentive from the state.

For the first time, recipients of a Bright Futures scholarship can use their money during the summer. So far, more than 1,600 USF students are taking advantage of it, said financial aid director Leonard Gude.

USF started two of its three summer sessions May 15. Students then had a week to drop or add classes to their schedule. The next week, USF counted 19,895 enrolled students -- an increase of 474 students over last year. Officials also have noted a 5.7 percent increase in the number of credit hours.

"We were kind of surprised when we had the numbers we had," Gude said.

Interim President Richard Peck attributes the increase to USF's growing reputation and increased media coverage stemming from a failed attempt to turn the St. Petersburg campus into its own university.

Registrar Angela DeBose points to a healthy economy. Gude said that he can't put his finger on one reason, but that Bright Futures certainly was a contributing factor.

The scholarship, administered by the state Department of Education, rewards students who graduate from a Florida high school with at least a 3.0 grade point average and maintain the B average in college.

Recipients are given at least 75 percent of tuition costs. Continuing students enrolled in at least six credit hours qualify for the award this summer. Gude said he expected about 1,000 Bright Futures students. His guess was 600 students low, and USF still has another summer semester that starts next month.

A strong summer also leads administrators to expect an even stronger fall. USF expects to easily surpass its record for freshmen. Last fall, 3,237 new students entered USF. This year's figure is closer to 3,600. Overall enrollment could eclipse 36,000 for the first time since the Fort Myers campus closed in 1997.

"We've reached the saturation point," said Peck, whose permanent replacement, Judy Genshaft, starts July 1.

USF has stopped admitting freshmen to its Tampa campus for the fall term. Instead, it is asking students to attend in St. Petersburg or wait until January for Tampa acceptance. Transfer students still are welcome in Tampa, whose state-mandated mission is to bolster upper-division and graduate offerings.

Lawmakers also have pressured USF into expanding its programs in St. Petersburg, making the diversion of incoming students there an obvious step for the university.

"It's a funny contrast," Peck said. "The Legislature would like us to increase access and they also have to pay for those students."

- Times staff writer Joe Humphrey can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or humphrey@sptimes.com

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