Breaking down fall freshmen enrollment

USF’s new freshman class spells change for the University both academically and geographically – a change administrators would like to see more of.

Assistant Vice President for Admissions Robert Spatig said the fall 2011 freshman class is, collectively, the most academically talented class the University has seen, increasing their chances of success in school. It is also the most geographically diverse, with an increase in international students from last year.

“(For) the freshman class this year, this fall they are at 3 percent international compared to 2 percent last year,” he said. “The average GPA was 3.91, which is up from, like, 3.81 last year, the average SAT is 1203 compared to 1176 last year and the average ACT was up from 26 to 27.”

Spatig said it was also confirmed yesterday that about 10 percent of the incoming freshman class are from outside of Florida.

“(Standards) have been going up every year for the last five or six years,” he said. “Last year, because we had an extra large freshman class, some of the statistics slipped just a little bit from the year before, but this year is higher than the year before, so the trend line is headed upward. I don’t see us necessarily raising them, at least for the (2012) fall group, but we will continue to recruit the highest achieving students that we can.”

This semester, 2,387 freshmen were admitted into the University, compared to last year’s 2,967, Spatig said.

Furthering USF’s “geographical diversity” was discussed during Provost Ralph Wilcox’s fall faculty meeting Aug. 18 – something he said would not limit Florida resident students’ access to a USF education.

“For us to limit our horizons, if you will, to Hillsborough County or the state of Florida we believe does a real disservice to our students and the growth and stature of the University of South Florida,” Wilcox said. “There are no efforts or interest to compromise admission standards, so the admission standards are going to be the same for students in Pennsylvania as they are from Florida and as they are from China as we recruit those students to the University.”

Wilcox said roughly 90 percent of USF students are from Florida. According to the Board of Governors (BOG) regulations, there is a limit to the number of non-resident students enrolled within the entire State University System of Florida.

BOG regulations state that the 11 Florida public universities can accept non-residents “in numbers not to exceed 10 percent of the total systemwide enrollment. This does not imply that the enrollment of non-resident students at any single university in the system will be limited to 10 percent of that university’s total enrollment as long as the total number in the University System does not exceed 10 percent of the total systemwide enrollment.”

Wilcox said the limit is imposed because “the state invests in the State University System to provide high quality education to Florida residents.”

Spatig said there is some flexibility between each Florida public university.

“If a few are over and a few are under, the state doesn’t worry about it,” he said. “We’re still under 10 percent, so the Provost would like us to get to 10 percent.”

Wilcox said there are upcoming initiatives to send recruiters to northern states and overseas through USF’s partnership with INTO, a United Kingdom-based company that recruits students on a global scale.

INTO USF Director Glen Besterfield said the total number of INTO students has increased since its launch last year. Last fall there were about 450 students at INTO USF and about 500 in the spring, he said. For the 2011 fall semester, more than 600 are now in the program.

“Over the past year – 2010 to 2011 – we moved over 100 onto USF as degree-seeking international students,” Besterfield said. “To put that into perspective, the University typically has about 1,400 degree-seeking international students. We just increased that by 100 students last year. Next year, we will increase it by 200 or 250. We are getting bigger and bigger.”

Roger Brindley, associate vice president for Global Academic Programs, said the purpose of making USF an “international destination” is to prepare students for the global market.

“We believe that would be enormously helpful to our home students – the students who haven’t traveled the world,” he said. “One of the benefits is to be more engaged in the world. We hope it would increase the quality of an education at USF.”

Besterfield said that point can be illustrated by simply looking out his office window, which overlooks benches where many INTO students spend their time. Monday he noticed four students on the benches, but another was missing.

“I saw four young men – one from Russia, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan,” he said. “Who did we miss from that group? An American. That’s what all of this internationalization is all about. The most important thing is that we create an international culture, and I really think it’s about the American students. We’ve got 1,500 international students and there are 38,000 American students on campus.”

Wilcox said geographically diversifying USF will not only open resident students to various cultures, but also more resources.

“If anything, it’s going to expand access because, remember that these non-resident students at the undergraduate level pay nearly three times the tuition and fees that a resident pays, a full-time resident student in Florida,” he said. “In many respects, the increased tuition revenues that non-resident students pay will help offset some of the budget reductions we faced as of late. But, most importantly, (it) allows us to hire more professors (and) to enhance the quality of the academic delivery that we are able to provide to all students at the University of South Florida. I think that is the most important point for all of us to understand.”