Trustees on the board of the University of South Florida have raised concerns about the trajectory of the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
On Thursday, the board of trustees for the University of South Florida heard some sobering news about the Sarasota-Manatee campus during a board meeting in Tampa.
Declining enrollment in some key programs and a poor fund-raising track record are some of the biggest disappointments trustees have seen in the latest numbers, said Byron Shinn, who serves as chairman of the USFSM’s campus board.
“The board is just holding management accountable,” Shinn said.
Unfortunately, in all six years we did not meet our goal. - Vice Chancellor Terry Osborne
The school has fallen far short of its own fund-raising goals. Since 2011, USFSM has set goals of raising roughly $18.2 million, but during that time has only raised $5.8 million, excluding deferred gifts. If deferred gifts are included, which are gifts donors plan to give but have not yet made, the school has raised $7.1 million.
“Unfortunately, in all six years we did not meet our goal,” Vice Chancellor Terry Osborn said.
This year has been the worst year in the last five for fund-raising, Osborn said, as the school has only raised $333,535 in fiscal year 2016-17. The goal was to raise $2.1 million.
The role of development coordinator has remained vacant since August, and the search is ongoing, Osborn said. He said two candidates had dropped out of the application process after they accepted roles elsewhere, and the school hopes to fill the position soon.
The school has seen a decrease in the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees it awards each year since 2012-13, going from a peak of 556 bachelor’s degrees in 2012-13 to 464 in 2015-16, and a peak of 72 master’s degrees in 2011-12 to 53 in 2015-16.
While presenting the information to the USF trustees on Thursday, Osborn said the decline could be attributed partially to a nationwide decrease in early childhood education majors, which is traditionally one of USFSM’s strongest programs. He also said he believed the downward trend would stop.
“We believe we have reached the bottom and are ready to start turning this in the other direction,” Osborn said.
The school has also seen a decline in its accounting program. The program had 135 students in the fall of 2014, but this past fall had 95. Accounting is a program of strategic emphasis for the state and is linked to the performance-based funding the state allocates.
And when (financial) development doesn’t happen, the student gets hurt. - USFSM Board Chairman Byron Shinn
It wasn’t all bad news though.
The school’s biology program, which is also a program of strategic emphasis, has more than doubled, going from 93 students in the fall of 2014 to 219 in 2016.
And Osborn said the school had several strategic initiatives in place to address some of the faltering programs and boost enrollment.
USFSM recently placed counselors at the State College of Florida to help students transition from earning their associate’s degrees to the bachelor’s program at USFSM. The school has also hired a freshman retention adviser and a FUSE coordinator to help students transition from another Florida College System school into USF.
Shinn said he had faith in USF President Judy Genshaft but he was blunt in his assessment of the situation.
“Of all the campuses, we have the worst numbers over the last few years,” Shinn said. “And when (financial) development doesn’t happen, the student gets hurt.”