40th Anniversary in Focus: USFSM flourishes with removal of enrollment restrictions

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 12, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit usfsm.edu/anniversary.

June 2015 was an historic month for USF Sarasota-Manatee, starting with approval of the campus’ long-range strategic plan and ending with the Board of Governors’ consent to allow USFSM to exceed 25 percent of its full-time equivalent credit hours for freshmen and sophomores.

Practically speaking, the board’s action allowed USFSM to expand its lower-level course offerings and lifted the freshmen and sophomore enrollment caps in place since 2012.

“By allowing our campus to increase the number of freshman and sophomore students, we are now able to serve a higher percentage of local, traditional college students,” Dr. Sandra Stone, USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor, said. “This is an exciting step forward for USF Sarasota-Manatee.”

She called the approval “the next major milestone in our 40-year history in this community.”

The enrollment increases won’t occur immediately. They’ll likely increase starting fall 2016 as graduating seniors firm up their college plans from the previous year.

The Board of Governors’ approval comes as USF Sarasota-Manatee is achieving greater milestones and growing faster than expected.

For decades, since the campus’ founding in 1975, USFSM derived accreditation through its affiliation with USF Tampa. That changed in 2011 when, like USF St. Petersburg before it, USFSM earned separate accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Since then, USFSM has gained more attention from local graduating seniors. This continued in 2013 when, with backing from USF’s Board of Trustees, the campus welcomed its first freshman class.

It was anticipated that freshmen and sophomore enrollments wouldn’t constitute more than 25 percent of the total student population until the 2017-18 academic year. With support from the community, the campus crossed that threshold in fall 2015 when total student registrations eclipsed 2,000 students.

USFSM is not focused solely on enrollment growth as it expands. Instead, the campus is aiming for “quality growth” to try to retain the intimate, personal learning environment the campus is known for.

“We are so grateful to the Board of Governors for their approval of USFSM’s proposal to expand lower-level enrollment,” USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft said. “This expansion reflects the USF System’s continued commitment to providing access to high-quality education to the region we serve.”

USFSM received support for the cap removal from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, as well as New College of Florida, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota Economic Development Council, the North Port Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Council and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.

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