TAMPA, Fla. - The University of South Florida is phasing out its College of Education's undergraduate program. A budget shortfall, thanks to COVID-19, is forcing the school to save millions of dollars. Graduate programs will still be offered, but the current crop of undergraduates will be its last.
The announcement stunned and devastated several students.
"Getting into this program is the first time I felt like I am where I need to be," said junior Spencer Bazen. "I want other people to learn the things we are learning, learn the strategies of how to teach these kids who are struggling."
He's one of just under 2,400 USF College of Education students who found out today that they would be among the final classes to get a USF undergrad degree in teaching.
But enrollment at the college has declined by almost 50 percent in the last decade, and when COVID-19 crushed budgets at state universities, USF had to find a way to save $6.8 million over the next two years.
They'll do so by phasing out their teachers' college, but keep the grad school going.
"What we are really doing is moving away from needs that can be better served and are being better served in other ways," said USF provost Dr. Ralph Wilcox.
Florida is enduring a teaching shortage right now that has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Wilcox argues this won't move the needle much on that front.
"Our state colleges are doing a remarkable job in preparing entry-level teachers for the K-12 community."
Still, the announcement means the jobs of professors are on the line, which devastates students like Bazen, who are considering holding rallies to convince USF to leave the college intact.
"I want other people to be able to come to USF and actually enjoy and participate in this program that I am in right now because I am blessed to be in this program," said Bazen.
As far as decisions on jobs of professors and staff members, the school says they will make those decisions likely after the New Year. Other areas of USF may also face cuts in the coming months.
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