USF provost to implement three-year graduating program

Despite USF’s dismal graduation rates, a new program next fall will allow some students to graduate in three years – with more than a degree to show for their work.

Stuart Silverman, dean of the USF Honors College, will serve as director of the new Provost’s Scholars Program, which will only be offered to incoming freshmen that meet its requirements and provide them with priority course registration and internships.

But not every freshmen should expect to meet the requirements, Silverman said.

“These students must have a high GPA, around 3.8, and are also expected to have done very well on their SAT or ACT,” he said.

Prospective students must also have obtained 18 or more credit hours during high school toward their intended major through International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement or dual enrollment programs.

“This isn’t a rush degree. You need those credit hours,” Silverman said. “Students in this program will not be taking more than the usual number of credit hours per semester, around 15 to 18. We are only going to accept students who are highly motivated and know their intended career path.”

Silverman also said the program may not be available to select majors, such as nursing and education, because “they are just spread out too far to accomplish in three years.”

Students accepted into the program will get paired with a professional in their intended career field, so they will be better able to find internships.

“As for priority registration, they will have the same benefits in that regard as USF Honors College students,” Silverman said.

“(The program) includes opportunities for the types of experiences that are critical to the full development of college-age students,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, who helped create the program.

Silverman said the goal is for the program to accept 50 to 100 students who will also be required to take summer courses, complete a semester abroad and live on campus in a Living Learning Community, a program that houses students with others in their major and coordinates additional events and activities in their field, according to the USF Housing and Residential Education website.

“Before being accepted, each student will be personally interviewed as well,” Silverman said. “We have to know that they will be active on campus, participating in USF clubs and other organizations that will set them apart as undergraduates.”

To help offset the costs of the requirements, Silverman said scholarships and financial support will be available for study abroad trips and summer classes that are not covered by Bright Futures.

“(Students) also will be paired with a mentor that they will meet with repeatedly throughout the semester, and will be required to visit the Career Center as well,” he said.

In an interview with The Oracle earlier this month, Director of the Office of Student Success Paul Dosal said that in the 2009-10 academic year, the average full-time student graduated in about 4.19 years. About 50 percent of the students at USF graduate in six years, he said.

“The bottom line is that we don’t want someone who says that they just want to do whatever it takes to graduate in three years,” Silverman said. “They have to be motivated and, if you have a student who has also interacted and made their mark on the campus, they are going to be special and different from just the sum of 120 credit hours.”