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Education

USF seeks price hike for two top degrees

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Published:   |   Updated: September 8, 2013 at 09:13 AM

TAMPA — Local students likely will have to dig a lot deeper to pay for advanced degrees through the University of South Florida in a pair of high-demand, well-paying careers.

The two new programs join a handful of others at USF in fetching whatever the market will bear instead of standard tuition rates. All are taught online.

“The whole idea is that there’s a market demand for the subject matter being taught, and a master’s degree or advanced certification will help working professionals advance in their careers,” said Beth Garland, chief business officer for USF’s University College.

Under a proposal approved by USF’s Board of Trustees, the university would charge market-rate tuition for two more programs — a master’s degree in cybersecurity and a graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis.

In-state tuition would jump significantly for the two programs, from $14,002 to $27,000 for the cybersecurity track, and from $7,755 to $12,600 for the applied behavior analysis certificate.

Out-of-state enrollees would fare better. They’re currently paying $26,738 for the cybersecurity program and $15,397 for the behavior program, and would pay the same as Florida residents.

The proposal has been sent to the state university system’s Board of Governors for approval.

In setting the rates, USF looked at similar programs such as the cybersecurity track at Georgia Tech, which charges $35,200, and Penn State, at $27,090, and the applied behavior analysis track at Florida Institute of Technology, which charges $16,110 and University of Cincinnati, at $13,050.

Lawmakers tweaked state law in 2010 allowing market-based tuition on a case-by-case basis as part of a settlement in a lawsuit between the Board of Governors and the Legislature over who has the authority to set tuition. Universities must meet strict guidelines for approval.

“The idea behind market rate was to generate some kind of new revenue, and hopefully they will,” said Mark Walsh, USF’s assistant vice president for government relations. “They’re particularly targeting high-demand and high-wage professions, because people are willing to pay a little bit more.”

In its report to the Board of Governors, USF said few graduate-level programs in the nation focus on cybersecurity, while demand for people in the field has grown three and a half times faster than demand for other information technology jobs and 12 times faster than for all jobs.

The report said the applied behavior analysis program provides the content required for board certification. That allows for work in fields such as education, developmental disabilities, autism, child protective services, mental health, residential supports and rehabilitation. It said people in those fields earn from $50,000 to $90,000.

The cybersecurity program is expected to generate $4 million for USF in its first five years; the applied behavior analysis program, $2.8 million.

The two new offerings join newly-launched market-based tuition degrees in electrical engineering, information systems, nurse anesthesia and public administration, and three more set to launch in 2014 in sports and entertainment management, business foundations and entrepreneurship.

Aside from a few “growing pains,” Garland said the programs have met or exceeded enrollment targets. “We have to provide the proper support services for the people who take these online classes, and we want to make sure people have the full USF experience, even if they live in Suriname or New York,” she said.

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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