A new USF program challenges 24 freshman students to graduate in three years.
This fall semester, the Provost’s Office and USF Honors College launched the Provost’s Scholars Program (PSP).
Ralph Wilcox, provost and executive vice president of USF, said high standards were set for students in the program.
“A student has to have a minimum of 1200 SAT or 27 ACT score,” he said. “They have to have at least a 3.8 weighted high school GPA and, for the most part, they had to demonstrate success in AP, IB or dual enrollment. (It’s an) accelerator for students who are eager to complete their education in three years rather than four.”
Wilcox said students who applied and were selected had to exceed beyond the classroom. He said some of the students chosen were leaders of their debate team, student-body presidents or captains of their sports team.
According to tbo.com, “Ninety showed interest after the program was announced late last year,” and “students also had to agree to go to summer school, so they’ll have time in the fall and spring semesters to fulfill the other requirements of the program.”
Stormy Knight, a freshman majoring in psychology, said she received a letter in the mail about PSP.
“I really wanted to be an Honors student but I was one point below the qualifying ACT score that you need to apply,” she said. “When I found out that the Provost Scholars Program was associated with the Honors program … I was sold. I just felt like I wanted to be included in a program started by prestigious people and surrounded by other ambitious students.”
Wilcox said other programs similar to PSP exist, but are mainly at private schools.
According to the Provost Scholars website, students applying need at least 18 hours of college credit from high school to be accepted.
Brianna Paulus, a freshman majoring in accounting, said the program will benefit her.
“I can tell that it is going to open up a lot of opportunities for me in the future,” she said. “I’ve already gotten to meet with the Provost himself and many other upper administrators at a luncheon and I had a great time listening to him speak to us about what is to come.”
Wilcox said the program requires students to live on campus during their first two years and remain in good academic standing.
“We do expect them to engage in complimentary academic work like undergraduate research,” he said. “We expect them to participate in community engagement activities and they are required to participate in education abroad.”
Wilcox said, because of the ranged difficulty of degrees offered at USF, not all majors will be offered for students participating in the PSP.
“It would be very difficult for someone to complete an engineering degree in three years unless they bring with them Calculus I and II as well as Physics I with Calculus, for instance,” he said. “They are going to be on a very rigorous path towards academic success. This isn’t for everyone.”
Wilcox said an added benefit of PSP is the possible monetary savings for the University as well as Florida’s taxpayers.
“It costs the state a lot less for a student that graduates in four years versus five or six years,” Wilcox said. “It’s a cost for both the state and the student/family and will drag out their education.”
The Florida State Legislature also approved new sanctions this school year to its Bright Futures Scholarship, which Florida PSP students will typically receive. Wilcox said he was excited those sanctions changed so if a student graduates “with excess or unused hours, those can be credited to graduate school.”
“We are not compromising the standards or performance expectations,” Wilcox said. “The only way a student can expect to graduate is if they bring enough credits with them.”
He said students will need to demonstrate a clearly disciplined pathway toward graduation. If they veer off course, successful completion of the program in three years cannot be guaranteed.
Knight said she isn’t concerned about falling behind the fast-paced program, as she already has more than 18 college credit hours.
“I only have two years left until I graduate, so that separates me from some of the other students in the Provost Scholars,” she said. “I will not have to be so down to the grind.”