GPAs raised as University trims transfer admissions

The University of South Florida is the No. 1 transfer destination school in the country, but come fall, new admissions requirements for transfer students could bring that ranking down a peg.

The University was already in the process of raising admissions criteria for transfer students based on national and institutional data about which students are most successful academically, said Bob Spatig, director of admissions.

But given budget shortfalls – and a directive from the Board of Governors to realign enrollment to match that budget – the University decided to accelerate some of the changes.

One of the most drastic changes to the transfer admissions policy will denying admission to students with fewer than 36 credit hours.

“Studies show they are more likely to drop out or transfer again with less than 36 credits, so we want someone to stay put until they are a sophomore,” Spatig said.

Grade point average requirements will also rise significantly under the new transfer admissions policy.

For limited-access majors such as nursing and social work, the University used to admit sophomores – students with 36-59 credit hours – with GPAs of 2.5. The new requirement for fall 2008 is a 3.0.

The University will continue to admit Florida community college transfers with associate degrees (AA) and a 2.0 GPA, unless the GPA requirement for their major is higher. For students without an AA from a Florida community college who are transferring to USF with 60 or more credits, the University will require a 2.5 GPA – up from 2.3, Spatig said.

More changes to admissions requirements will be phased in over the next two years. Upper-level transfer students’ required GPAs will rise from 2.5 to 2.75 for summer 2009, and to 3.0 for summer 2010, Spatig said.

Branch campuses in Manatee County, Lakeland and St. Petersburg will – for the most part – continue with the old admissions policy, Spatig said.

“All four campuses will experience it for the limited-access majors,” Spaitg said. “They won’t experience it as drastically because they are built to grow, and they have more unused infrastructure than this campus does. I mean, we have 38,000 students here and they have the other 7,000, so there is more room for trimming from the Tampa campus.”

Andrew Henske, a 20-year-old theater performance major, transferred to USF with 33 credit hours from Valencia Community College. Under the new policy, Henske would have been turned away.

“I really wanted out of my community college and I wanted to go to USF from day one,” Henske said. “It would have been a pain if they made me complete another semester before I could transfer.”

Leellen Brigman, associate vice president of admissions, refers to the University study on transfer students to support the new freshman transfer cutoff.

“Research on transfer populations in higher education shows that freshman transfers do poorest in terms of making the transition to the university level,” Brigman said. “We want to make sure that students coming in will be successful while they are here, so we align our admissions requirements with what we know about student success here at the University.”

Henske disagrees.

“There is no drive lost on my end,” Henske said. “I feel like there is even more of a drive to succeed. I stepped in as a sophomore to the theater department, not knowing any peers or professors, and I was actually pushed further to overcome that.”

Even though transfers such as Henske have been a staple for the student body, Brigman said a large impact would likely not be felt.

“Closing off admission for freshman transfers doesn’t affect a large number of students,” Brigman said. “The students that stay through and complete their AA degree at a community college usually do as well – if not better – than students coming as freshmen, so we know those students are more successful and will press through to graduation at a faster rate.”

Both Spatig and Brigman agreed that the transfer admission changes – along with the freshmen admission changes over the last three years – would bring about a higher-achieving student body.

“This is the research campus, where students need to be ready to handle the rigors,” Spatig said. “The class sizes can be larger here. Students are dealing with the research faculty at a major doctoral university. It’s just appropriate, and our studies show that the higher GPAs are needed for successful students.”