April 19, 2024

Florida's Colleges

The Admissions Squeeze

Students are finding it harder to get into the state's schools - and a crisis looms as the competition intensifies over the next five years.

Mike Vogel | 9/1/2006
Trend #4
More Students on the Way

The escalating application and declining acceptance rates illustrate "the most important, emerging education issue in Florida," says Valencia Community College President Sandy Shugart. Florida's growing population, the increasing propensity of people to choose to go to college and Florida's improvements in high school graduation rates have combined to create "an extraordinary demand for freshman seats," he says.

By one measure, the state will need the rough equivalent of two and a half new UFs in the next five years. Grant Thrall, a UF professor of business geography, estimates the state will have 135,000 additional potential college students over the next five years. Thrall researched the question for the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities and expanded the potential student population to take in non-traditional students older than 22. The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the 11 state institutions, estimates the total number of undergraduate and graduate students at its universities increasing by 74,032, or 26%, by 2012 to 360,414, up from an estimated 286,382 this year.

The board staff is scheduled to recommend options in November for addressing the coming increases. The state could bulk up its existing universities. Spreading the board's growth estimate over 10 of the 11 public universities, each would have to accommodate 7,400 more students by 2012 just to keep up with the population growth. The 11th public institution, New College of Florida in Sarasota, has an enrollment of only 760. Sizable additions of faculty would have to be made to maintain student-teacher ratios, an often-cited measure of institutional quality. Classroom space would have to be added.

The state could choose to establish new institutions or expand summer school. Or, the state could offer more four-year degrees at community colleges. Another possibility is following the example set by UCF and the community colleges in Orange, Seminole, Brevard, Lake and Sumter counties, which last year forged an agreement that allows students there who can't make UCF's admissions cut to earn a two-year degree at their community colleges and then be guaranteed a slot at UCF. Meanwhile, increasing demand allows universities to prosper in the selectivity paradox -- the schools deemed the best by parents and students are those hardest to get into. (U.S. Department of Education research into graduates' earnings shows what students do with their education at college matters more than where they attend.) UF in July said it no longer needs to offer as much incentive to draw National Merit Scholars and cut the amount of four-year scholarships for instate National Merit Scholars to $5,000, from $22,000. The students already got free tuition through Bright Futures, but the scholarships gave them additional reason to go to UF, which in 2004 was second only to Harvard in the number of National Merit Scholars.

» "We've got more high school students. We've got more who are applying for our state universities for several reasons," notably Bright Futures. "It's a matter of supply and demand."
-- Laurie Sutton, guidance coordinator with Broward County schools

Percent White/Black/Hispanic/Other

"It's much more diverse," says USF admissions director Robert Spatig of the 2006 freshman class.
The number of Hispanics admitted reached 16%, compared to 12% last year. The number of African-Americans rose to 10% from 8.3% last year.
The number of Asians admitted increased more than a full percentage point while the number of whites fell to 62% from 69% last year.

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Education, Government/Politics & Law

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