Academic Quality Highlights USF's New School Year

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 25, 2008) – The class of 2012 began classes at the University of South Florida today with the strongest academic credentials of any freshman class in the university’s history. While official enrollment numbers are not available until after the first week of class 45,585 students enrolled at USF today: 3,909 new freshmen, 4,652 new transfer students and 2,359 new graduate students.

The university has carefully managed and closely monitored its undergraduate freshman and transfer enrollment in Tampa in response to reduced state funding for higher education. While growth on the Tampa campus is slowing, the academic strength of the university is rapidly increasing.

Less than half of freshman applicants were offered admission, and the newest Bulls have impressive grades and test scores. The average grade point average of the freshman class is 3.73, with an average SAT score of 1159 and ACT score of 25. The USF Honors College also enrolled more than 400 members of the class of 2012 with an average SAT score of 1359, a 31 point gain from last year.

"The class of 2012 is incredibly prepared for the challenges they will face at one of the nation’s leading research universities," said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ralph C. Wilcox. "They are making one of the biggest moves of their lives to date, and we are ready to provide them with the knowledge and skills they will need to become successful students and global citizens."

Students seeking to transfer to USF also faced more competitive admission requirements, intended to gauge their preparedness for the academic rigors of a major research university. Transfer students now must have at least 36 transferable hours in addition to higher GPAs than in the past. National and institutional data suggest that students who transfer with associate degrees and stronger GPAs are much more likely to succeed academically. Still, USF enrolled 2,806 new transfers from Florida’s public community colleges, a slight increase over last year.

"Even with our increased admission standards for transfer students, USF remains one of the nation’s top destinations for transfer students. Historically, we enroll the most students transferring from the state’s public community colleges, and this year’s impressive transfer class demonstrates our commitment to supporting Florida’s ‘2+2’ system and the unique needs of transfer students," said Robert Sullins, dean of undergraduate studies.

In support of the university’s strategic plan, graduate enrollment and diversity are on the rise – an indication of USF’s intentions to strengthen its position as Florida’s number two research university. Graduate studies and research are the hallmarks of the Tampa campus as a premier destination for world-class graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.

USF is strategically shifting undergraduate enrollment to its regional campuses as part of the university’s plan to expand access and more clearly define the missions of each campus. USF St. Petersburg, the only regional campus that admits freshmen, enrolled 349 students to its class of 2012, which is an increase of nearly 57 percent from last year’s freshman class. The campus’s total enrollment is 3,697, nearly a 5 percent increase from last year. USF Sarasota-Manatee and USF Polytechnic also saw impressive gains in their enrollments. The Sarasota-based campus total enrollment is 2,010, which is 10 percent more than last year; and the Lakeland-based campus total enrollment is 1,316, a gain of 18 percent from 2007.

The diversity of the student body remains strong at USF. While the university experienced a slight dip in overall African American student enrollment – which is down by 10 students, or 0.2 percent, from last year – the graduate student enrollment has increased more than 14 percent. Undergraduate and graduate Hispanic student enrollment is 9 percent higher than last year. Overall, one in three USF students represents populations historically underrepresented in higher education both in Florida and nationally. The male freshman enrollment has also increased at USF by 8.5 percent, which runs significantly counter to national trends.

The university is continuing to refine its enrollment strategy and will closely monitor its enrollment efforts to ensure it enrolls an increasingly diverse student body. Retention and graduation rates remain very strong for minority students at USF. The university was recently ranked by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of the nation’s leading universities for minority enrollment and graduation. USF ranked in the top 50 nationally in more than 30 areas of undergraduate and 15 areas of graduate minority enrollment and graduation rates in the report. Also, the 6-year graduation rates for African Americans is comparable to the graduation rates of white students, which is evidence of USF’s commitment to diversity and student success.

"Our top priority is to enroll students who can bring diverse viewpoints to the university while also demonstrating the scholarly aptitude to succeed. We are fortunate so many bright students from diverse backgrounds have chosen, and continue to choose, USF as their academic home," said Wilcox.

Students are coming back to a campus that features an impressive addition: the new Marshall Student Center, which opened last week. The 233,000 square-foot, four-story center features a food court, restaurants, offices, a 1,100-seat ballroom, formal conference rooms, meeting rooms, a computer lab, student organization spaces, lounges, spacious eating areas and a 57-foot central atrium. A 700-seat theater will be finished in September.

"Last week, U.S. News and World Report named USF one of the nation's top 20 'Up and Coming' colleges. This is because we're quickly creating the learning and research environment of the future," said USF President Judy Genshaft. "Some of the best students in the nation know that USF is the place to find top quality academics and exciting campus life."

USF by the Numbers

Total Enrollment – 45,585 (increase of 694 students from 2007)

• Undergraduate – 35,074 (increase of 639 students)

• Graduate – 8,968 (increase of 247 students)

• Non-Degree Seeking – 1,543 (decrease of 192 students)

USF Tampa – 38,562 (0.4 percent increase)

USF St. Petersburg – 3,697 (4.6 percent increase)

USF Sarasota-Manatee – 2,010 (10.2 percent increase)

USF Polytechnic – 1,316 (17.9 percent increase)

Detailed information on USF’s first-day enrollment figures are available online at:

The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is one of Florida's top three research universities. USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

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Story written by Jacqui Cash, Academic Affairs