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Partnership with community colleges guarantees admits

For some students, attending USF just became easier.

USF President Judy Genshaft and the presidents of St. Petersburg College, Pasco-Hernando Community College and Hillsborough Community College signed a document Wednesday that guarantees admission to community college students with associate’s degrees wanting to attend USF.

Genshaft said there isn’t a problem with the way students currently transfer from the colleges to the University, but that the signing was a way to formally bring everyone together and allow easier collaboration.

“This is such an important occasion and important signing,” she said. “It really does show that the University of South Florida works so well with our partners in our region. I think … we are showing the rest of the state that we are a model for good practice that benefits the students that live in this region.”

Ashley Carl, executive director of marketing and public relations for HCC, said current students who graduate from a community college with an associate degree are guaranteed admission to a state university, but not necessarily the one of their choice.

“For people who are in the Tampa Bay area, (and) want to stay in the Tampa Bay area, they don’t want to go to FAU (Florida Atlantic University) or FIU (Florida International University) or UNF (University of North Florida),” she said. “This guarantees their admission to USF.”

William Law, president of St. Petersburg College, said the agreement will also help the colleges secure funding. Applications for major grant initiatives, either federal or private, ask community colleges what partner institutions they would work with if the grant was awarded, Law said.

“Having a natural affinity, a documented affinity, a documented, working relationship will move us to the front of the line as we work together on those grants that help students transition in and out of our institutions,” he said.

Kenneth Atwater, president of HCC, said the colleges have always had a great relationship with USF, but wanted to formalize it with a document.

“We want everyone to know that we’re in this together,” he said, “and we are here because we want our students to be able to transition seamlessly between our institutions.”

Atwater said the partnership will help students understand they have a “pathway” to a four-year degree when starting their higher education.

“All of (the colleges) agree it’s a necessity. People pursue a higher education,” Atwater said. “It really formalizes and says, ‘If you are at (a community college), you can also be a student simultaneously at USF. There is a door open for you.’ That’s a powerful statement.”