USFSM this week visited local high schools to welcome its upcoming freshman class. From left, USFSM Admissions Director Andy Telatovich, Outreach Coordinator Sean Grosso, Manatee High senior Lexi Selleck, Admissions Counselor Juan Arcila and Manatee High seniors Dakota Lupinski and Keianna Hawthorne.

USF Sarasota-Manatee visits local high schools as enrollment jumps

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 03, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 3, 2017)USF Sarasota-Manatee anticipates a boost in freshman enrollment this fall amid new academic programs and stepped-up recruiting at high schools in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

As of Tuesday, about 100 incoming freshmen had committed to attending USFSM, not including 20 who signed up to start classes early this summer. Last year, the campus welcomed 60 freshmen.

“We’ve admitted 180, but have about 100 who’re committed, which is a record for us,” Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Andrew Telatovich said Tuesday. “Right now we have 97 or 98, but could have a couple more today.”

One potential reason for the jump: admissions counselors increased their visits to local high schools to talk about USFSM’s academic programs, low tuition and 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Also, the campus has seen growing interest in biology degrees and a surge in registrations for pre-engineering and other academic programs.

So far, 38 students have signed up for pre-engineering; that compares with five in fall 2016 when the program started.

Among the recent registrants is Dakota Lupinski, 18, a senior at Manatee High School. Lupinski will graduate with a 3.94 grade point average. In the fall, he’ll enter the Bridge to Engineering program, taking two years of classes at USFSM then finishing his studies at USF’s College of Engineering in Tampa.

He said he always excelled in math and science, but his interest in engineering was piqued recently after working with a 3D device.

“If you take mechanical engineering, there are so many jobs out there,” he said. “You can design cars, engines, refrigerators, just about anything mechanical.”

Logyn Robinson, 18, a senior at Bayshore High School in Bradenton, signed up for USFSM’s Information Technology program. At the same time he attended Bayshore he was taking computer systems classes at Manatee Technical Institute.

He said he expects to graduate from Bayshore with a 3.8 GPA and wants to become a systems analyst or administrator. “It’s just something that’s always interested me,” he said.

Like other students, Robinson chose USFSM because he found a program that dovetailed with his interests. But another factor weighed heavily into his decision as well: the school’s proximity to home. “It was important for me to be near my family,” he said.

That theme and others, such as cost, the diversity of academic programs and low student-to-faculty ratio, frequently came up as admissions counselors fanned out across Manatee County Tuesday to welcome next fall’s incoming class.

During interviews, many students voiced desires to stay near family, while others talked about avoiding college debt, being drawn to a particular program and feeling welcome at the campus.

Manatee High senior Lexi Selleck enrolled in biology, citing USFSM’s affiliation with Mote Marine Laboratory as one reason. However, she also talked about cost and the campus’ nearness to home as reasons to attend USFSM.

Keianna Hawthorne, another Manatee High student, said much the same, that she wanted to stay near her mother, 15-year-old brother and an older sister enrolled at State College of Florida. Hawthorne said she wants to become a pediatrician. “I’ve always liked working with kids,” she said.

Cameron Benishek – whose brother Alex served as a USFSM student body president – offered the same explanation, as well, but a new USFSM program also caught his attention: risk management. It turns out that USFSM’s College of Business is one of only two colleges in Florida to offer risk management as a major. The degree program will debut this fall.

“I’ve always been good with numbers and my dad does risk management and he likes it,” the Palmetto High senior said.

USF Sarasota-Manatee visits local high schools as enrollment jumps

Southeast High senior Dina Tax.

Dina Tax, a 17-year-old senior at Southeast High, offered perhaps the most personal explanation for choosing USFSM.

She said she had dreamed of college but let her grades slip during her junior year when her father was deported to Guatemala for illegal re-entry. With her family life in turmoil, school shifted to the back burner and she failed three courses.

Two things turned her around: Her mother insisted that she get serious about school and a USFSM admissions counselor urged her to not give up her college dreams.

USFSM counselor Juan Arcila was visiting Southeast High last fall when he bumped into Tax and heard her story. He suggested not only that she focus on education but that she attend an upcoming open house at the USFSM campus, which she did.

Tax said she immediately felt welcome. “Everyone seemed really friendly,” she said. “Everyone was smiling. It seemed like a nice environment.”

Tax’s father is trying to appeal his case and return to the United States. In the meantime, Tax plans to attend USFSM to study biology.

She said she wants to become a pediatrician.

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