USF closes its College of Education due to budget issues

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Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 3:05 PM EDT
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (USF Crow’s Nest/WWSB) - The University of South Florida is closing its College of Education and eliminating all undergraduate education programs. The university is blaming financial issues.

School faculty learned Wednesday that the university will be eliminating its College of Education following a staff meeting, according to reports from the USF St. Petersburg student newspaper.

Earlier this month USF President Steve Currall announced plans to build USF’s future through financial renewal, a process that would include salary reductions for USF senior leadership.

All state universities in Florida have been asked to prepare plans for an 8.5% reduction in state funding for this fiscal year, which in USF’s case is equivalent to $36.7 million, with a second phase of reductions needed for next fiscal year. Additional information about budget reductions that was shared with the university community earlier this month included plans to reduce $13.4 million from colleges this fiscal year.

The school released the following letter:

Dear Colleagues,

Like many Institutions of Higher Education across the State and throughout the nation – USF faces significant budget challenges in the face of COVID-19 while we continue our progress as a consolidated preeminent research university. As part of our strategic budget renewal process, USF must reduce the College of Education’s annual budget allocation by $6.8 M (or 35%) over two years, a challenging task that demands a comprehensive assessment as we plan for the future of Education at USF.

To that end, we are strategically reimagining and reconfiguring Education at USF from a comprehensive College of Education to a more focused Graduate School of Education with an appropriate organizational affiliation with another college such as the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. This will allow us to continue to serve our students and communities, including our vital partners in our area school districts.

This change reflects the evolving demands of students, who are increasingly seeking alternative pathways to teacher certification outside of the traditional baccalaureate degree. Going forward, USF Education students will have an opportunity to earn teacher certification through a Master of Arts in Teaching degree which may be completed in a fifth year following a baccalaureate degree in a content area, giving Education students a competitive advantage among job seekers in the market.

A Graduate School of Education is not an unusual model for institutions in the American Association of Universities (AAU) or universities with high research activity, nor is it uncommon to house a school of education within a college with associated academic expertise and interests. Re-envisioning the College of Education as a graduate school enables us to leverage our strengths in our master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degree programs, and to place a stronger emphasis on research opportunities and contributions to our important PreK-12 partners and beyond.

In moving forward with planning for a Graduate School of Education, leadership, faculty and staff will be guided by institutional data, best practices, the needs of the communities we serve, our accrediting body (CAEP), SACSCOC, and we will follow processes to ensure that currently enrolled students can complete their degrees at USF.

We have much work to do together to grow forward as a Graduate School of Education. I thank each of you for your ongoing support and your commitment to high quality learning and professional experiences for our students. Every day, you make an impact. I am incredibly proud of your talents, your contributions to our field, and the dedication that each of you demonstrates in service to our students, our university and our surrounding communities.

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