As student enrollment at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Sen. Jeff Brandes is asking university leaders to begin discussions about returning student admissions control to the campus.
In an email to USF President Steve Currall, Brandes laid out several suggestions for the branch campus including authority to determine enrollment.
The email comes as USF St. Pete struggles with student enrollment under the newly consolidated structure. In 2018, lawmakers voted for and the Governor approved plans to strip USF St. Pete and the Sarasota/Manatee campus of their individual accreditation and operate the entire university system under the main Tampa branch’s accreditation.
Part of that move included shifting marketing and student recruiting to the Tampa campus. Since admission requirements became uniform across all three campuses in July of 2018 and complete admissions control shifted to Tampa the following March, enrollment dropped from 549 students to just 386, according to USF St. Pete’s student newspaper, The Crows Nest.
“No one can highlight what USF St. Petersburg has to offer better than its local advocates; therefore, I would like to discuss admissions being returned to the St. Pete campus,” Brandes wrote.
He applauded school leaders for a five year plan that “ties together the unique aspects of our community with the offerings of the University.” However, the plan, which included five initiatives aimed at not only boosting enrollment, but creating distinct academic offerings, doesn’t include specific details on how to reach its stated goals.
“We should immediately seek the council of faculty, business, and other local stakeholders as we move forward with the draft vision,” Brandes suggested.
His recommendations also included establishing a K-12 college of education lab at USF St. Pete. USF announced earlier this year it was eliminating its college of education undergraduate program and shifting it to graduate-level courses, a move that Pinellas County Schools officials decried as a hindrance to its talent recruitment process.
Brandes suggested partnering with Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego and the school district to “enhance educational offerings in the region.”
“This will further strengthen the ongoing relationship between the community and the Campus. It is my belief that a major urban university must recognize the responsibility it has in shaping tomorrow’s educational leaders,” Brandes wrote. “Abandoning undergraduate education degrees, as currently proposed, would profoundly negatively impact our local K-12 students and the University’s perception as a partner in the Tampa Bay region.”
In another recommendation, Brandes said USF should be “actively seeking partnerships with Johns Hopkins All Children’s and the regional health care community partners that would offer distinctive opportunities for Health Science students.”
“Again, I appreciate this initial vision for the future of the St. Petersburg campus. I look forward to continuing to discuss this with the business and community leaders in the area. I look forward to hearing their feedback and continuing our conversation on this critical topic for St. Petersburg and Pinellas County,” Brandes concluded in his letter.