As the university moves away from relying solely on state funding for summer courses, the new Summer Institute will attempt to create a hybrid public-private school-funding model that uses business analytics to offer classes that can be funded through student demand.
While state funding will continue to provide for infrastructure costs — including library staff, deans, provosts and electricity — the university will now solely use student tuition to cover the three-month instructional costs of summer courses, something the university spent $8 million in cash reserves last summer in addition to the existing academic 12-month college budgets to run, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said. While instructional costs are covered on a 12-month basis, faculty are hired on nine-month contracts.
Now, however, the university will use analytics from DegreeWorks that measure students’ progression toward degree completion to calculate what classes they will need to graduate in four years to calculate the number of seats needed per class each semester.
“This is how business analytics works when we use them in enrollment planning,” Wilcox said. “It’s really all about meeting student demand to support our mission of student success.”
The changes, he said, will allow USF to better utilize summer classroom space and the courses will simultaneously be marketed to new demographics such as international students and out-of-state students returning to Tampa for the summer, who pay about three times the rate of tuition as in-state students.
“For international students, it’s helpful to get a jumpstart and get acclimated if you will, not just to the University of South Florida but American culture,” Wilcox said.
Additionally, Cynthia DeLuca, former associate vice provost for enrollment and planning at North Carolina State University, has been hired to oversee the centralized operations of the Summer Institute, something previously managed by deans and chairs.
James Garey, chair of the cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology department and a member of the Faculty Senate, stated in an email to The Oracle that the Provost charged a committee of faculty members to develop new ways to offer summer courses in the absence of recurring state funds for summer sessions.
“I can tell you that for the past five years, because of budgetary uncertainties, the summer program has been one of the more difficult parts of my department’s programs to administer,” he wrote in the email. “We currently can only offer large undergraduate courses with high unmet demand — those that students absolutely need in order to graduate.”
Wilcox said much of the same might continue, and while students will likely not see fewer classes, they may see fewer electives and more required courses offered in the summer though the finalization of courses remains to be determined.
But with change comes some hesitation.
USF Faculty Union spokesperson Greg McColm said as the union is currently in the process of negotiating the terms of the next collective bargaining contract, hoping the new Summer Institute abides by terms of the contract.
“Summer school assignments were to be made when assignments were available, and faculty who took those assignments were to be paid essentially at the same rate as courses during the year,” he said. “Those two seem to be the two flashpoints … If there is no new contract that is ratified and comes through before summer, then the terms and conditions of the existing contract are still in effect … We believe the ultimate purpose of the Summer Institute is academic, so we hope decisions will be made in consultation with faculty and appropriate governance bodies.”
Wilcox said some of the uncertainty around the changes are understandable but many of the changes would not be drastic, and students should expect to see a greater availability of courses.
“This is not enrollment planning based on history but on student needs today,” he said. “There is some angst I suppose that some may have, but our faculty are very committed to our strategic priority of student success. That may mean delivering a different array of classes … This is where the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of USF really takes over. It’s not going to be summer school as usual.”