RUSKIN — In a collaborative new program, Hillsborough Community College students will soon be able to earn bachelor's degrees from the University of South Florida — without setting foot on a USF campus.
The two institutions have teamed up to offer a degree in business through classes online and at the HCC SouthShore campus in Ruskin.
This is the first arrangement of its kind, officials said.
"It's basically what I call trendsetting," said HCC president Ken Atwater at a Tuesday ceremony.
Starting as early as fall, community college students interested in the degree can transfer into USF Sarasota-Manatee. Faculty and staff from USF Sarasota-Manatee will commute to the HCC SouthShore campus to teach university level courses.
The degree caters to the particular needs of south Hillsborough residents, said HCC SouthShore campus president Allen Witt.
"It's about access," he said. Many of HCC SouthShore's 6,000 students take classes part-time around family or work. They may not have the time, money or desire to drive nearly 30 miles away to USF's Tampa or Sarasota campuses, which are the closest public university offerings.
And there's increasing demand for such programs, Witt said, as enrollment has boomed at HCC SouthShore. In September, the campus acquired a 20-acre adjacent land parcel for possible future expansion.
For the new four-year degree, classes taught by USF Sarasota-Manatee instructors will cost about $150 per credit, the same as USF's regular tuition rate.
Transferring HCC students typically must take an additional 60 USF credits to complete their bachelor's degrees.
In terms of cost, community college classes for an associate degree are about half as much as university-level credits, said HCC spokeswoman Ashley Carl.
Tuesday's agreement builds on an already well-established relationship between the institutions. In December, USF entered a partnership with HCC and other bay area community colleges to guarantee transfers into the university.
It's all part of a goal, officials say, to facilitate local higher-education opportunities.
USF Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor Arthur Guilford said cooperative programs open up creative solutions to grow education during a lean economy.
Similar degree offerings in different subjects are likely to follow if this inaugural business program is successful, he said.
"I really do think this is the wave of the future," he said.
Stephanie Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.