The University of South Florida St. Petersburg will debut a new nursing program this fall after a unanimous vote by the City Council that will give the program a temporary home.
An agreement with the city grants USF a two-year lease on the downtown Port Terminal Building at 250 Eighth Ave. SE. The nearly 11,000-square-foot space was formerly occupied by the city's Marine Exploration Center, but now will house classrooms, offices and laboratories for working adults looking to secure a second bachelor's degree.
Chancellor Martin Tadlock called the deal a "terrific example of the ongoing partnership" between USF St. Petersburg and the city. The new program, he said, will spur opportunity and growth for the local economy as experts predict a shortage of nurses over the next decade.
"Nurses continue to be in high demand in our region and we're pleased to help fill that workforce need while providing our students with exciting career options," Tadlock said in a news release.
USF will pay the city $44,820 a year to lease the building, which leaders say is an ideal fit for the new program.
"The nursing students can walk over and instantly be a part of our campus community," Magali Michael, dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences, said in a news release. "They can participate in student activities and have a true campus experience."
Michael has been negotiating with USF Tampa, which already has a second-degree nursing program, to duplicate it at USF St. Petersburg, Tadlock told City Council members before their vote last week. He said similar partnerships are in the works as the three-campus USF consolidates by 2020.
"The vision we have, of course, is to bring additional programming to downtown St. Petersburg because we are St. Petersburg's university," Tadlock added. "That's who we are."
The new program will serve 20 to 25 students in its first year, and USF hopes to double enrollment in year two, the chancellor said. A degree can be earned in four semesters, which is about 16 months.
Students will need to travel to USF's Tampa campus occasionally to participate in simulation and collaborative learning, as well as use services at USF Health, the university said. Hands-on training will happen at medical facilities throughout Pinellas County. All lectures, however, will be taught at the new site in St. Petersburg by faculty from the USF College of Nursing in Tampa.
At the City Council meeting, council member Gina Driscoll said she hopes the agreement is the "start of something bigger" for nursing students in St. Petersburg. Then she wondered what will happen once the university's lease on the Port Terminal Building is up.
"That time will really fly by," she said. But Tadlock assured her the nursing program will be here to stay.
The university, he said, has been in talks with state lawmakers, stressing the need for more funding for space and resources to help USF St. Petersburg continue expanding opportunities for students through consolidation.
"More resources have to come to St. Petersburg," he said. "That has clearly been communicated to our legislators, and we absolutely plan to have those resources come here to help us expand and build out to accommodate the needs that we have. … At the end of that two years, we hope to have somewhere else available."
For more information about the nursing program, visit health.usf.edu/nursing
Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] or . Follow @mareevs.