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New agenda molds fall class, administrators say

A smaller and more selectively culled freshman class joined the student body at USF’s Tampa campus on Monday.

Freshman enrollment dipped nearly 5 percent and the average SAT score rose 17 points, according to first-day enrollment numbers released by USF Wednesday.

Administrators said this change, coupled with a nearly 10 percent increase in graduate student admissions, reflects an administrative attempt to model other top-tier research universities.

It also indicates a philosophical shift in the works since 2004, when administrators decided to depart from a historically open-door policy to one that required more of incoming freshmen, said Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox.

“Things change. Institutional priorities change,” said Wilcox. “Some may view (the change) as a down side, we view it as an upside.”

“The governor and Legislature are calling for wider access…but if we admit just for the sake of admitting we are doing the University and its students a disservice.”

USF’s decision to pursue more elite students means not only selecting from a smaller pool of applicants, but accepting students with more colleges to choose from and a greater likelihood to turn down USF, said Leellen Brigman, USF’s associate vice president for enrollment planning and management.

“We’re competing with the big dogs now,” said Brigman. “More and more of our students are looking at UF and FSU and out of state schools.”

The stream of new graduate students – whose enrollment rose 9 percent – will help fuel USF’s research programs, Brigman said.

The growth of the graduate admissions combined with the 11.3 percent increase in transfer students outweighed the drops in enrolled freshmen as the overall students at USF rose to nearly 44,891 students across all the campuses, up 3.4 percent compared to the first day of class in Fall 2006.

The slowing pace of enrollment at USF’s Tampa campus didn’t extend to its regional campuses in St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland, which grew at much faster clips than enrollment at Tampa. USF Tampa enrolled 38,417 students, an increase of 2.9 percent, while enrollment at USF’s St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland campuses grew a combined 6.4 percent, to a total of 6,474 enrolled students.

David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or