In a letter to University of South Florida President Steven Currall, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor urged the university administration to preserve the College of Education’s undergraduate program, which is being eliminated due to budget cuts.
“It has been my privilege to work with USF for over a decade,” Castor wrote in the letter addressed to Currall and the USF Board of Trustees. “Part of our shared mission in service is to improve the economic opportunities for students and families, our public schools and the entire Tampa Bay community. That is why I am very concerned by your recent announcement.”
The university’s College of Education serves as the largest single provider of teachers to the Tampa Bay area and has received more than $34 million worth of federal grants throughout Castor’s time in Congress.
The university plans to eliminate its undergraduate program to reduce the college’s budget by $6.8 million — or 35% — over the next two years, according to WUSF. While the college would continue to offer a graduate program, this move will likely eliminate the 14 different undergraduate education degrees offered by the university and may result in faculty job loss.
The cut also could lead to a local teacher shortage.
“As local school superintendents, education professionals and many in the business community have expressed, the contributions of the College of Education to our school districts and the community are central to our economic vitality,” Castor said in her letter.
The Congresswoman also emphasized that the local school district is the county’s largest employer in the Tampa Bay area. While other institutions like the Colleges of Education at the University of Florida and Florida State University prepare teachers, Castor writes that those who graduate from USF remain the largest single provider.
“We must guarantee a strong, continued USF pipeline of the highest quality teaching professionals,” Castor wrote in the letter. “USF draws many of its students from our region, and when they graduate, many stay and serve our neighbors. The impact of the USF College of Education on the economy of the Tampa Bay region is remarkable, and it must continue.”
Castor also reminded the university of the millions of dollars worth of grants the college has received from the federal government.
“The U.S. Department of Education grants for 2020 to the College of Education are significant, exceeding a million dollars for special education, middle school education, and literacy and bilingual instruction,” Castor wrote. “USF has valued the teaching profession from its founding sixty years ago, and I urge you to work with federal and state legislators and others to bolster it.”