From the expansion of nursing, engineering and cyber-security programs to a new virtual reality degree, institutions of the Cross College Alliance — the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, New College and Ringling College of Art and Design — are preparing students for high-demand STEM careers.
This growth isn’t surprising. STEM-related job growth has outpaced most other occupations for the past 10 years and the U.S. Department of Commerce projects a 9 percent annual increase through 2024. The Department reports that STEM workers earn more regardless of educational attainment and those with bachelor’s degrees earn 38 percent more on average than in non-STEM fields.
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The alliance institutions are aggressively responding to local and national demands for STEM training with programs and new, expanded facilities.
USF Sarasota-Manatee offers degrees in biology and information technology. Last year, pre-engineering courses were added to prepare students for USF’s College of Engineering in Tampa, and the campus is planning locally based BSN-nursing and cyber-security programs for the near future.
The biology program started in 2014 as a partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory, which houses USFSM’s teaching laboratories. The biology major grew so rapidly that modular units were added to the campus to provide research labs for faculty-student collaboration.
As USFSM continues to answer the call to create more science and technology programs, it is also taking an additional step. The campus recently announced plans for a 75,000-square-foot Sarasota-Manatee Science & Research Building.
The new facility will contain lecture halls, teaching and research laboratories and clinical space – areas not included when the existing building opened 11 years ago.
The Sarasota-Manatee Science & Research Building is estimated to cost roughly $35 million. Although the state will be asked to fund most of this project, the campus will work with its community partners and alumni to raise some $10 million of the total. Community support is critical to complete the project.
Ringling College of Art and Design is accepting applications for its newest major: virtual reality development. This first-ever bachelor of fine arts in VR will equip students to design, create and analyze immersive experiences for an array of industries, including education, healthcare, advertising, entertainment and architecture.
The world of VR is exploding and could surpass a $40 billion market by 2020, according to a recent study by Orbis Research. Graduates of this pioneering program will be ready to rise to the challenge and meet employer needs.
At New College of Florida, more than 25 percent of graduates have a concentration in science or math and go on to companies across Florida and the nation. The new master’s degree program in data science, which was designed in consultation with leading national technology companies, already has provided graduates for several Sarasota-area businesses.
State College of Florida created another pathway to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree with its new “BSN in Four” program, beginning fall 2018. The BSN is now considered to be the preferred degree for nurses, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s new “Florida Jobs 2030” report. More than 650 nurses have completed the Associate in Science in Nursing to BSN track in the past four years at SCF, with another 348 in the process.
The Cross College Alliance’s commitment and enthusiasm for STEM program growth align with local economic development and business trends. Together, the alliance institutions are unifying resources to provide state-of-the-art facilities, programs and top faculty to make the Sarasota-Manatee region competitive for the benefit of our STEM graduates and employers alike.
Dr. Terry Osborn, Interim Regional Chancellor, University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee, can be reached at 941-359-4720.
The Cross College Alliance is comprised of six colleges, universities and campuses. Learn more at crosscollegealliance.org