USF schedules around overcrowding
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 15:04
Though recent reports say that USF’s population may be exceeding its capacity, some administrators say that isn’t the case.
Using Florida’s “classroom space utilization rate” formula,USF is now at 134 percent capacity, according to a March Miami Herald’s report, meaning that for a campus of its size, USF accommodates 34 percent more students than it should. However, by spreading out the times that courses are offered, administrators said USF has avoided overcrowding.
“We can either decrease enrollment or increase classroom space,” Michael Moore, Associate Vice President for the Office of Decision Support, said. “Since the state is not considering more buildings nor are we going to reduce enrollment, we need to find a way to optimize offerings without jeopardizing quality.”
There are 37,879 students enrolled at the USF Tampa campus for the spring 2012 semester after the Drop/Add period, according to USF InfoMart. The University of Florida, which was said to be at 99 percent capacity, had 48,653 students on the first day of fall 2011, and Florida International University, which was said to be at 175 percent capacity, had about 46,000 students.
Graham Tobin, vice provost for Strategic and Budget Planning, told The Oracle last month that USF was looking to keep its Tampa enrollment relatively stable, but could increase enrollment at its regional campuses.
Assistant Director of Administrative Services Karla Willman said the Division of Environmental Health and Safety collaborated with the Office of Decision Support’s Central Space Office and others last year that find classroom occupancy loads to meet fire code requirements. They found that the campus’s maximum capacity at any given time is 12,078, excluding classrooms reserved specifically for certain departments. That number was calculated by adding two to each classroom’s capacity, which, in part, determine class sizes.
“They created a spreadsheet for student assignment purposes to prevent overcrowding in instructional areas,” she said in an email.
But Lynda Farris, assistant director of the Office of Decision Support, said that because of USF’s class schedules, the number of students at USF is not more than the campus can handle.
“Since not all students enrolled at USF are here at the same time using the classrooms, we do not have much to worry about,” she said. “We encourage the use of all our facilities and time slots. We do everything we can to disperse the classes throughout the week, including weekends.”
Since 2008, USF has offered weekend classes between 9 a.m and 5:45 p.m. USF’s earliest classes start at 7:25 a.m. and the latest classes finish by 9:45 p.m. For now, there are no talks of changing that, Vice Provost for Human Resources and Facilities Kofi Glover said.
“We have not discussed earlier than normal morning and midnight class hours,” he said. Moore said that until recently, science lab space was difficult to schedule.
“We had a lot of pressure for lab space,” Moore said. “We did not have enough space for all the students who needed to take labs. We now have a new building, the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, which eases the pressure.”
Moore said that larger classes will have “break outs” and testing on Fridays, a day with traditionally fewer classes.
Moore said one way to avoid overcrowding is to encourage more students to choose classes outside the common 10 a.m. t0 2 p.m. schedule and take classes that meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday as opposed to only on Tuesday and Thursday, the most popular days for classes.
“It might not be the desirable option for some students to have classes three days a week or earlier in the morning, but we have to optimize what we do have,” Moore said.