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USF, HCC partnership opens door to local four-year degree

Published on: January 25, 2012


RUSKIN – Once again charting new education ground, Hillsborough Community College SouthShore will offer a four-year business degree opportunity when the fall semester begins on its campus here.

A joint use agreement involving HCC and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee was executed here during a brief ceremony this week. Dr. Ken Atwater, HCC president, Dr. Arthur Guilford, USFSM regional chancellor, and Dr. Allen Witt, HCC SouthShore campus president, together formally initiated the new endeavor designed to provide a seamless baccalaureate degree experience for South Hillsborough and North Manatee County students.

It is a new approach for the Hillsborough-based community college and is being undertaken on the newest campus in the institution’s five-campus network.

The first degree track to be offered under the long-term agreement is the course work required for a Bachelor of Science in Business, Witt said. In addition, there has been discussion among the educators concerning potential for degrees in psychology and in education in the foreseeable future, Witt noted.

The cooperative effort by the two leading post-secondary public education institutions in the area means measurable savings in both time and money for students. Many students in community colleges today are not fresh high school graduates, but rather are adults with family and occupation responsibilities, the campus president

explained, adding that many times they’re also very much interested in more formal education for a variety of reasons. Both tuition and transportation are easier to handle at the more accessible community college where per credit hour costs are lower than in the regional university system and classes often are available during evening hours. However, students have been able to earn only an associates or AA degree which then must be transferred to another institution in order to complete the desired baccalaureate or bachelor’s degree coursework.

That physical transfer with its increased course costs and greater transportation demands can be eliminated in August for those SouthShore students now aiming for a bachelor’s in business. After completing their two-year curriculum — the foundation coursework required for any four-year degree regardless of where obtained — the business degree students will continue their more advanced work online or on the SouthShore campus, Witt said. In all likelihood, a student would want to travel to the USF Manatee-Sarasota campus only to meet with a counselor, he suggested.

The business degree track was the first chosen, he indicated, because of the wide applicability of the education in this specialty. The graduate earning a bachelor’s in business is equipped to begin work in management of an existing commercial enterprise or to build a new company from the ground up, Witt added.

HCC SouthShore, which was opened just four years ago and thought at the time to be merely a small facility serving a few hundred local students until around 2020, has become a popular hub attracting students of all ages from every community across the region to its range of educational options. Enrollment will top 6,000 students this year, Witt said, adding “we’re using our third parking lot.”

It is not, however, the area’s first institution of higher learning. Ruskin College, opened in 1910 as a centerpiece of the shared-work settlement named for English social critic John Ruskin, survived eight years until destroyed by fire. Similarly popular but without the surrounding area population to supply enrollees, the Ruskin College student body at its four-year mark numbered 160, Witt noted. That probably was the largest student body as military enlistments for World War I began to put area young men into uniform in 1914, he added.

Today, as the fall term inaugurates the four-year degree program, the campus president pointed out, it will be possible for a student to begin his or her high school career and continue study for a baccalaureate degree without getting any further from home than the corner of East Shell Point Road and 24th Street. HCC also partners with the Hillsborough County public school system to conduct Lennard Academy on the Earl Lennard High School campus adjacent to the college, fielding evening classes there.

USF Manatee-Sarasota, part of the expanding USF system which includes campuses in Pinellas and Polk Counties, is a comprehensive university for students pursuing bachelor and master’s degrees in an extensive range of disciplines conferred by the nationally-ranked research university.

The agreement formalized this week between the university and the community college also complements a joint resolution made in December involving Pasco-Hernando Community College and St. Petersburg College, along with USF and HCC, aimed at increasing the number of associate, bachelor and graduate degrees in the region, at reducing the timeframe for earning a degree, at filling specific degree voids and at promoting further study by better preparing students at all levels.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson