One of Education Trust's Top 25 Gainers
By Barbara Melendez
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2010) – The University of South Florida is included on the list of “Top 25 Gainers in Underrepresented Minority Graduation Rates among Public Research Universities,” compiled by the Education Trust in a newly-released report highlighting public four-year colleges that have “significantly raised their minority graduation rates.”
USF came in 21st with a 9.4 percent point improvement in its 6-year graduation rate between 2002 and 2007 for students that define themselves at African American, Hispanic or Native American. In conjunction with an ongoing commitment to access and diversity, USF credits its efforts toward improving levels of college preparedness for students admitted to the university and a renewed focus on academic attainment.
“Even as we raise our undergraduate admission standards, we continue to attract greater numbers of Black and Hispanic applicants each year, especially as transfers, who are enrolling at USF with the academic preparation needed to succeed at a competitive national research university,” said Director of Admissions J. Robert Spatig. “Because the word is getting out that we retain and graduate more historically underrepresented students each year, USF is gaining the reputation within Black and Hispanic communities as the destination of choice in Florida for higher education.”
USF has instituted several programs and campus improvements to support students’ academic experience at USF, including enhancements to financial aid, residence life, curriculum, orientation, student activities, technology, and career services. A university-wide Enhancing Student Success Task Force is a 100-member group of faculty, administrators and students charged with conducting a critical yet constructive assessment of current practices that affect student success to identify potential improvements.
“The entire USF community has worked diligently to ensure that undergraduate students are academically and personally prepared to complete a rigorous course of study in a timely manner,” said Provost Ralph Wilcox. “We are building a university designed and dedicated to providing our students with engaged learning experiences, with the requisite academic support they need and with an education which prepares them to be successful upon graduation."
Specifically, USF has two prominent summer bridge programs designed to facilitate a smooth transition to USF for first-generation students thus enabling retention and persistence to degree completion: Student Support Services (SSS) and Freshman Summer Institute (FSI). These two units now form the foundation of a First Generation Access and Success unit that also includes pre-collegiate academic programs such as Upward Bound, College Reach Out Program and ENLACE+. Recently, USF implemented another program called Summer Stampede to further enhance first-generation access and success.
“USF is focused on student success for all students, and we will continue to pay special attention to those students who come to our campus with additional challenges and hurdles to overcome," added Wilcox. "We will not be satisfied until all USF students are successful in completing their degrees and are doing so in a timely manner.”
The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.