USF Sarasota-Manatee allowed to enroll more freshmen, sophomores

BRADENTON -- More freshman and sophomores can enroll in the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee after a decision Thursday by the Florida Board of Governors, which serves as governing body for all public universities in Florida.

The ruling removes a 25 percent enrollment cap on underclassmen effective immediately. Officials say the change will be most directly seen in the spring and fall semesters next year.

"This is good news. It helps us better serve our region," said Sandra Stone, USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor. "It'll help us grow and that helps everybody."

USF enrollment is now 1,917. Students enrolled at the Sarasota-Manatee campus can take courses throughout the USF system.

Freshman were first welcomed to the local campus in 2013 and officials didn't think the underclassmen would take up more than 25 percent of the freshman class until 2017-18, but interest grew faster than expected.

"We ran up against it our second year out," Stone said. "It was a really exciting thing for the campus to see the response."

USF Sarasota-Manatee received support for the proposal from State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota as well as the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota Economic Development Council, North Port Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Bradenton Area Economic Development Council and

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, officials said.

Most USF students will still transfer from a two-year college, either SCF or other community colleges, Stone said, but this will allow students looking for a four-year opportunity to attend USF from the start.

Stone said she does not expect the move to create a competitive environment with SCF.

"I think we all complement each other very nicely," she said.

Programs in place such as the 2+2 program at SCF and USF will continue, said Brian Thomas, special assistant to the president at SCF. USF will continue to guide students it cannot accept to look at SCF, he said.

"We've been in support of this," he said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @meghinDelaney.