At the start of spring 2021, the Office of Admissions elected to redirect new applicants to the St. Pete campus if they applied after Jan. 6 as a means of increasing enrollment. Almost six months later, USF St. Pete has a higher enrollment level than ever before.
Dean of Admissions Glen Besterfield’s goal was to have at least 650 first-time-in-college (FTIC) students enrolled at St. Pete in the upcoming fall semester. That number has been surpassed by almost 150 deposits, according to a Board of Trustees (BOT) presentation May 25 by Provost Ralph Wilcox.
As of May 25, about 795 incoming students have made deposits to enroll at the St. Pete campus. In 2020, St. Pete had 423, according to Wilcox’s presentation. Black student enrollment is up 166.7% compared to 2020 and Hispanic enrollment is up 174.1%, according to Wilcox’s presentation.
Wilcox revealed during the BOT meeting St. Pete campus numbers are all around dramatically higher than in the past.
His presentation showed the number of applications to USF for summer and fall 2021 were 23.9% higher than in 2020 at 75,097. For the coming summer and fall semesters, 34,731 new students were admitted, topping 2020 by 26.2%.
Regional Chancellor of the St. Pete campus Martin Tadlock said these numbers have proven to be favorable results of the decision to redirect applications.
“All of the early indications are that our admissions have done a dramatic turnaround,” Tadlock said. “In terms of applications and deposits, the early indications are that we are headed in a very positive direction.”
Since consolidation of the three campuses began in 2018, St. Pete has seen a decline of about 200 total students enrolled on the campus, from 650 to 450 students admitted in the class of 2017 and 2018, respectively. This drop is attributed to conflicting standards of admission across the different campuses, according to Besterfield.
“St. Pete was admitting high school students down as low as 2.7 GPA, but the Tampa campus had never admitted a student below 3.0,” Besterfield said.
With consolidation efforts came a standardization of requirements, including GPA and SAT scores, leading to the continuous decline in incoming students over the years. Admissions raised its standards so it would follow the same requirements the Tampa campus had for incoming students, which consisted of an average GPA of 4.25 and SAT scores ranging from 1270 to 1340.
Besterfield aimed to bring enrollment numbers back up to pre-consolidation levels by redirecting all students who applied after Jan. 6, regardless of their campus preference, to the St. Pete campus if their major is offered.
Students who were redirected cannot initially change their home campus to Tampa or Sarasota-Manatee, according to Besterfield, but they are able to switch after their first semester.
Tadlock emphasized these are strictly early indications and student plans can always change.
“Summer is a decision time for people,” Tadlock said. “Even though they may have applied and been accepted and deposited, sometimes people change their minds and decide to go in a different direction. So until they show up, and we hit the census date, we don’t know for sure.”
As the fall semester approaches, FTIC students who were redirected to the St. Pete campus have a range of feelings about the redirection.
Incoming freshman Tia Farber said she applied to USF in late January and it was one of the last schools she applied to.
“I’m excited about the area, making new friends, and learning more about something I’m passionate about,” Farber said. “My mom led me to apply because I applied only to a few Florida schools and she thought my chances of getting accepted weren’t that high to end up in that state. So I applied to more.
“My acceptance said I got accepted at the St. Pete location and that I can transfer to Tampa after one semester,” she said. “I’m super excited about it actually. I don’t plan to transfer to Tampa currently.”
Other students, like incoming freshman Jaida Howard, have felt let down by the decision.
“I’m disappointed that I wasn’t given much notice that I was deferred to St. Pete until I logged into my [OASIS] portal,” Howard said. “I had already planned a campus tour and trip down to Tampa for spring break.”
Howard said she’s from a small town in Michigan with little to do, part of the reason she was looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the Tampa campus.
“I don’t think [I will stay at the St. Pete campus]. I really wanted to get into the big-campus social life that I saw in Tampa,” she said.
Incoming freshman Sofía Simancas said she has rather neutral feelings about being redirected to St. Pete.
“I didn’t have a preference when applying,” Simancas said. “But I’ve heard a lot of great things about St. Pete so I’m glad to be there.”
Simancas didn’t have any plans for transferring to another campus, which she attributed to not yet knowing what to expect from any campus.
“I’ll have to see what it’s like once I get there,” she said. “I’m looking forward to [attending St. Pete], I think it’ll be enjoyable for me.”
While the plans of some students might have been twisted along the way, some are embracing the change and preparing for their new chapter.
“I’m excited to get to know the area of St. Petersburg and make more connections,” Howard said. “St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and I cannot wait to live there, even if it wasn’t what I originally expected.”