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USF to preserve some undergraduate education programs

Nothing is final, but the school expects to have limited offerings.

Undergraduate degrees in education will continue at the University of South Florida, after weeks of backlash from local officials decrying the school’s decision to eliminate its undergraduate programs.

“While changes are needed at USF after a 63% drop in the college’s undergraduate enrollment over the past decade, we intend to continue offering carefully selected undergraduate degrees in education, though likely fewer than the nine baccalaureate degrees, 15 majors, five minors and 18 concentrations currently available,” USF President Steve Currall, Provost Ralph Wilcox and Dean of the College of Education Judith Ponticell wrote in a statement Friday.

The school announced earlier this fall that, due to budget constraints, it would be eliminating its undergraduate programs within the College of Education and maintaining only graduate-level programs.

The decision was met with swift backlash from local leaders, including those in the public K-12 system that relies on USF as a talent pipeline. Currall received letters from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and state Sen. Jeff Brandes urging solutions to preserve undergraduate programs in education.

“Today, we were pleased to join several Tampa Bay region school district superintendents for an important conversation on how USF will continue to deliver teacher education programs in the future,” the group of USF officials wrote.

“Let us reiterate that no final decisions have been made regarding the College of Education. Meetings like the one today, and many others that Interim Dean Judith Ponticell continues to participate in with school superintendents, faculty, staff, students and community members, serve as critical opportunities to share ideas and listen to input as we re-imagine our education programs during a period of significant budget challenges.”

The group said they would, in the coming weeks, review information about the demand for education graduates and “will make informed and evidence-based decisions that align with that data.”

“As our university-wide process of strategic realignment moves forward, USF remains committed to our responsibility of meeting the needs of the surrounding communities while continuing to be responsible stewards of the university’s financial resources,” the group said.

They said they would also continue to provide graduate and doctoral education programs, recognizing the key role they play in “the development of counselors, principals, superintendents and other K-12 leadership positions.”

The school is also “exploring how to deepen our commitment to STEM education on the St. Petersburg campus.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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