USF St. Petersburg: A welcoming place for all

Martin Tadlock, Ph.D., USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor

BY MARTIN TADLOCK, PH.D., USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor

ST. PETERSBURG — Throughout its 52-year history, USF St. Petersburg has always been the community’s university. We take pride in serving all members of Pinellas County and serving as a hub for community engagement, workforce development and — most importantly — student success.

That is who we are. That is who we always will be.

You may have seen a lot in the news recently about USF St. Petersburg. There have been multiple stories about our impending consolidation with the other USF campuses. A lot of attention has also been paid to USF’s status as a preeminent Florida university.

All of this may have left an impression among community members that USF St. Petersburg is no longer as accessible to students in our community. That is simply not true, and I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. 

For those who may not be as familiar with USFSP, I’d like to tell you a little more about us. We are Pinellas County’s only residential, public research university. We are home to about 5,000 students, with over two-thirds being commuters. We have two residential halls with a new one opening this summer. We offer 38 undergraduate and 17 graduate programs.

Forty-three percent of our students receive Pell grants, the highest percentage of all of the USF campuses. More than 80 percent of our students work either full-time or part-time, so keeping things affordable for students is a major priority for us.

For example, the overall cost of a USF bachelor’s degree has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past five years, we have saved students over $500,000 in textbooks last year alone, and we have added over $500,000 in new scholarships the past two years.

At the same time, we are focused on making our campus as accessible as possible. In 2018, we launched a new program in partnership with St. Petersburg College (SPC) called Pinellas Access to Higher Education, or PATHe. Our goal is to expand educational access and assist Pinellas County students who want to earn a college degree. 

The program puts four education counselors in Pinellas County schools to work with middle and high schoolers (and their families) to navigate the college application process and answer any questions they may have.  Students can also apply to the PATHe program, where they start at SPC and later transition to USF St. Petersburg. PATHe also offers financial aid and scholarships at both SPC and USF St. Petersburg.

We created PATHe because we know that working with higher education processes can be intimidating. I know this first-hand because I never dreamed I would attend college.

I grew up poor in rural North Carolina. After high school, I got a job shoveling asphalt off the back of a truck, assuming that’s what I would do for the rest of my life. But the Vietnam War intervened, and I wound up serving in the military. 

While there, I took a college course on a military base where I had a lot of support, got a B, and thought “Ok, I can do this.” So I used the GI bill to attend college and the rest is history.

That experience taught me that everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue an education beyond high school if they want to and that everyone needs support to make that happen.  So, we do everything we can to ensure that USFSP is accessible to students.

I invite you to get engaged with our university. Visit our campus. Check out our website at USFSP.edu. Contact our admissions office at usfsp.edu/admissions. You can also follow us on social media sites such as Facebook (facebook.com/gousfsp), Instagram (@usfstpetersburg) and Twitter (@usfsp).

Also, watch this space over the coming months for everything from tips on how to navigate the financial aid process to profiles of local students to stories on our student life activities.  We formed this partnership with the Weekly Challenger to help keep you up to date on all of the exciting initiatives happening at USFSP.

Recently, our Student Government launched a campaign called, “You Belong Here.” Their message is simple: no matter your race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political affiliation and any other identities; you are a part of the USFSP family and you are valued and loved here.

That sums up who we are at USF St. Petersburg. It’s a message that I hope resonates with all members of our Pinellas County community. We are your university. We are here for you.

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