USF reverses course on College of Education closure

The University of South Florida is reversing course, announcing Wednesday that the College of Education will remain intact.

Officials say USF decided to continue offering undergraduate programs in education after conversations with local school district leaders. However, the college still faces nearly $7 million in budget cuts over the next two years.

Back in October, university officials announced a proposal to phase out the college of education’s undergraduate programs. Leaders said the move was due to budget cuts and a continued drop in enrollment.

There was an immediate push for USF to reconsider.

Students rallied in support, school boards passed resolutions in opposition, and district superintendents in the region banded together to show why the college of education is so important.

"All of the messages that they sent, very much helped the institution to understand that the College of Education matters to the communities that we serve, so we were successful in being able to stay as a college of education," said Judith Ponticell, USF’s interim dean of the College of Education.

It was a welcome reversal for Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning.

"Quite honestly, I can’t thank USF enough for involving the local superintendents in the discussions," Browning said.

He says the college plays a vital role in the local education pipeline. More than 30% of teachers hired each year in Pasco County are USF grads.

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There is also a nationwide teacher shortage.

"If they were to have stopped, that would have had a profound impact on the Pasco district and I will tell you, districts all throughout the Tampa Bay area, it would have had a profound impact," Browning said.

There is still hard work to do and difficult decisions to be made for the College of Education. Its budget is being cut by 35% over two years, with the first round expected in July.

Leaders will have to weigh what programs stay, and how those will look.

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"[We are going] to look at how we can work with those budget cuts and then still deliver the programs that our communities have certainly told us are important for us to retain," Ponticell said.

A proposal from the college of education, along with plans from other units and colleges at USF, will be presented to the board of trustees at a workshop Friday.