USF offers degrees at HCC campus

A deal struck between Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and USF is about to make Bulls Country a little bit bigger.

A new partnership betweenHCC SouthShore campusand USF Sarasota-Manatee announced this week allows HCC students the opportunity to get a four-year bachelor’s degree in business without ever having to leave the Ruskin campus.

Interested students will still have to apply directly to USF and pay USF tuition to get their USF degrees. But, a December agreement between USF, HCC and three other localcommunity colleges nowguarantees all graduates of those institutions automatic admission into USF.

The idea for the SouthShore partnership, HCC campus President Allen Witt said, was conceived when the branch campus was born in 2008.

“We talked to the regionalchancellor then about thepossibility of doing this then, but you know money was low from the Legislature and we didn’t really know how many students we were going to get and we felt like we needed to mature a little bit first,”he said.

The program was designed to help students receive abachelor’s degree moreconveniently, he said.

“Students in this area reallyhave no (campus for a)bachelor’s degree,” Witt said. “Students in other parts of the county have USF and UT (University of Tampa) andprivate schools, but we have really nothing between

Brandon and Manatee County Ourstudents are mostly students who work and have children and families. This gives those students an opportunity tocomplete their bachelor’s degree very close to their home.”

Students in the program would take all prerequisite courses from HCC faculty, but can take specialized courses from USF faculty on the HCC campus. The students would be considered USF students for enrollment purposes from the time they enroll, but would pay USF tuition only for thenon-HCC classes theyenroll in.

In August, one USFbusiness course will be offered online at HCC and one on the SouthShore campus.

USF Sarasota-Manatee spokeswoman Christine Manring said the quality of instruction students receive at the HCC campus matched that of the Sarasota-Manatee campus. Both maintain a 15:1 student-faculty ratio.

“What we have found is that the HCC SouthShore campus is very much like ours as far as all their class sizes, so they pretty much are parallel in the types of classes we have,” she said.

Manring said the partnershipwould allow USFSarasota-Manatee to enroll more HCC students on campus, a number that has been steadilyincreasing. The number of transfer students enrolled in the USF system this semester increased 40 percent from last year – the highest percentage to date.

According to USF Informart, 278 out of Sarasota-Manatee’s undergraduate population of 1,578 were transfer students – nearly18 percent of students.

Witt said the decision was a mutually beneficial one.

“Many community collegesare trying to offer their own four-year programs,” he said. “It just seemed to make sense for our community. Ourstudents have said to us over and over, ‘The school we want to go to is USF.’ So rather than us try to offer our ownbachelor’s degree, it’s much better for us to give them the bachelor’s degree they really want at USF.”