In the face of nearly $37 million in budget cuts over the next nine months, University of South Florida provost Ralph Wilcox announced Thursday that the school will be phasing out undergraduate programs in the College of Education and will shift its focus to graduate education.
Ten years ago, Wilcox said, the College had an undergraduate enrollment of more than 5,000 students. That number has dropped by half, causing campus leaders to “reimagine and reconfigure” the College’s future as it faces a $6.8 million financial reduction over the next two years.
Undergraduates currently enrolled in the college “will be fully supported” on their journey to graduation, Wilcox said. He pointed to other avenues for college-bound students interesting in pursuing education degrees such as attending state colleges or going through alternative certification programs.
Dr. Judith Ponticell, interim dean of the College of Education, said that there’s more interest in advanced education degrees and professional development than there has been in the past, and noted schools such as Stanford and Harvard have graduate schools of education. “We will not be abandoning the preparation of teachers,” she said. “We will be looking for models to be able to develop teachers in a different way and emphasize our strengths in graduate education.”
As for faculty and staff impact, Wilcox said it’s too soon to speculate on how many people will be affected or who they will be.
Earlier this month, USF president Steve Currall said that estimated cost of Covid-19 to USF from March through the end of 2020 will be $31 million, with additional longer-term impacts yet to be determined. He has taken a voluntary 15 percent pay cut that will reduce his base salary from $575,000 to $488,750, and other members of the university’s leadership team will also see salary reductions ranging from 6 to 10 percent.
USF, along with other state schools, were aware that cuts needed to be made in light of the impact of the pandemic on the state’s economy and tax revenue. In July, officials requested plans from all state universities to plan for an 8.5 percent cut by the end of the current fiscal year, and an additional 10 percent by the end of the next one.