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USF St. Petersburg Projects A Decline In Fall Enrollment

USF St. Petersburg Campus
Nicole Slaughter Graham
WUSF Public Media
The University of South Florida St. Petersburg bull looking toward the student center

Enrollment for the upcoming fall semester is expected to be down at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and a variety of factors, including stricter admission requirements due to consolidation, are to blame.

Regional chancellor Martin Tadlock said that the university received about 2,400 applications last year and are down by about 150 this year.

The application period for fall semester closes on Apr. 15, and enrollment numbers will be finalized this summer.

Changes to USF St. Petersburg’s application requirements, said Tadlock, contributed to the decline.

“We reset our admissions because coming under one USF and being a preeminent university we're not as accessible in terms of the admission criteria as we were previously.”

The university is tightening admission requirements in light of the consolidation of the accreditation of the three USF campuses.

It's also being done to promote student success.

“We don’t want to admit students who aren’t prepared to be successful," said Tadlock.

Fall enrollment, he explained, usually brings in first-time college freshmen who plan to attend full-time. A more stringent application process helps determine which students are more apt to be successful.

Though fall enrollment is projected to decline, Tadlock said summer enrollment is in line with previous years, and he’s expecting an increase in spring enrollment as well. Transfer student applications are also expected to be higher than originally anticipated.

Tadlock attributes that to a working partnership with St. Petersburg College. Students who attend SPC and plan to transfer to USFSP can enter into a program called FUSE, which guarantees them a spot at the university pending successful completion of an associate’s degree.

A shift in higher education culture, he explained, likely contributed to the lower fall application number.

"You have multiple pathways. You can start at a two year college. You can do credits in high school. We have an average of 12 credits that students bring with them out of high school now," said Tadlock.

Starting as a part-time student in the summer is also a viable option for today’s student, he added. The university’s non-traditional students who attend classes at night and work or have families in the day also make up a large part of the population.

“From 4:15 to 6:00 in the evening is when we see the highest traffic of students," said Tadlock.

In the past, USF St. Petersburg has made a commitment to attracting a diverse student body, which it plans to maintain despite changes to the application requirements.

“We have entered into a conversation with USF Tampa about Trio, which is a federally funded program for students—primarily students of color—to bring them to campus under federal funding opportunities that will allow them to be a member of the campus community and get some additional support initially to help them be successful,” Tadlock explained. “That allows more access for students of color that traditionally might be denied admission."

He said the university is looking into starting a cohort of students from the Trio program this summer.

The university also maintains a close relationship with the south St. Petersburg high schools which are primarily minority-serving institutions, said Tadlock.

At the other USF locations, projections are in as well, though as with St. Petersburg, numbers won't be final until later on. 

USF Tampa's fall enrollment is expected to be up, according to Adam Freeman, a spokesperson for the university. 

USF Sarasota-Manatee, like the St. Petersburg location, also made adjustments to the admissions requirements to align with the Tampa campus as well. As a result, the campus also expects fall enrollment to see a slight decline from the previous year, according to regional vice chancellor Brett Kemker.

"That said, we will be celebrating an incoming class with the highest academic profile we've ever had here at USF Sarasota-Manatee," he said. 

Nicole Slaughter Graham is a WUSF Stephen Noble Intern for the 2019 spring semester.
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