TAMPA — The University of South Florida ushered in changes Thursday, including a new medical degree program and some higher fees for parking and housing.
The university's Board of Trustees approved the implementation of a Masters of Physician Assistant Studies at the Morsani College of Medicine.
The 24-month clinical master's program requiring 90 credit hours is planned to launch in 2015.
Although the program will be paid for by tuition, start-up costs are $1 million per year for the first four years, which USF Health officials say they will cover using already budgeted funds and putting other projects on the back burner.
Previously, the University of Florida was the only state university offering a physician assistant program, USF Health CEO Stephen Klasko said during a presentation for the board.
The field is in high demand, Klasko said, and many undergraduate students are interested.
In the past, they were directed to train at schools like Barry or Nova Southeastern universities.
"We want to make sure that USF undergrads have a great shot at getting great, high-paying jobs," Klasko said.
Physician assistants work with doctors, doing everything from diagnosing and treating illnesses to helping during surgeries to ordering tests, stitching and working with splints and casts.
The board also approved changes to parking and campus housing rates for the 2013-14 academic year.
Parking at the Tampa campus will increase by an average of 5 percent.
For staff earning $25,000 or less, the increase will be 2 percent, and Park-n-Ride fees will not increase.
Money from the increases will help pay for a new parking garage on campus. Parking rates also will increase an average of 5 percent at USF St. Petersburg and 7.5 to 10 percent at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
Housing fees will climb too, by an average of 3.1 percent on the Tampa campus. That figure factors in a variety of fee changes, from a 16 percent increase at the Maple double suites to a 2 percent decrease at the Holly and Magnolia apartments.
On-campus housing rates will increase by 2 percent at USF St. Petersburg, where students living in a four-person private suite will pay $7,844 per person for two semesters in the coming school year — an increase of $154.
Meanwhile, at the nearby Hilton hotel where some students stay, housing fees are dropping by $1,654.50 for two semesters.