Students and faculty of USF’s College of Education may see change within the next year as a new proposal is on the table to condense the college’s current eight departments into three.
According to the proposal put forth by Vasti Torres, dean of the College of Education, a task force of faculty members from the college suggested the reorganization because of a reduction in enrollment and to be “as efficient as possible.”
“It is important that we all recognize that evidence-based practice is our direct link to research and one that requires we do everything possible to enhance collaboration within the College,” the proposal states. “Other comparable colleges of dducation have already realigned their programs into a smaller number of departments in order to create more collaboration and interdisciplinary work.”
Torres, who came to USF from Indiana University last May, said her previous university’s School of Education had only five departments, while Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology only had three.
Torres also said the changes are “economically more feasible,” since enrolled student credit hours have dropped by 22 percent since 2008. This year, the college has 1,562 undergraduate students and 1,463 graduate students enrolled.
“Less and less people are going into teaching,” she said. “There is a lot of competition in the state of Florida for preparing teachers, and so we’ve had a decline in those numbers. We really needed to realign ourselves in an organizational structure that matched the number of students.”
At November’s Faculty Senate meeting, the proposal was presented to faculty members with Provost Ralph Wilcox, who encouraged collaboration between existing departments.
“I can be very blunt, relative to efficiency,” Wilcox said. “When you see declining enrollment, perhaps to no fault of theirs, at the rate at which we’ve been seeing at the College of Education, tightening belts is nonnegotiable.”
The changes, proposed to take effect June 1, 2014, will save the most money in administrative fees, with the majority coming from department chair summer salaries and stipends. Torres said the college estimates the reduction in department chairs will save “anywhere from $170,000 to $200,000,” and the proposal states savings from the stipends alone will be approximately $51,000.
The proposal, already presented and approved by the College of Education, will now be sent to the provost’s office for approval. Though there will be changes to the department structure, Torres said there will be no reduction in course offerings or degree programs because the college doesn’t want to change “student experience.”
“Programs will remain intact,” she said. “I don’t think the student experience will change at all. What will happen is that programs will be sitting in the same room during departmental meetings.”