Student fee funds technological upgrades across campus, USF system

How much the student technology fee accounts for per credit hour, according to numbers from 2017-18 from the USF controller’s office. The total shown includes all fees, not just the student technology fee. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

Since 2009, USF has charged students a technology fee; a fund that has accumulated millions of dollars over the years for system wide or campus technology projects.

The fee was established by the board of trustees in accordance with the Florida Legislature, according to the Information Technology (IT) website. Florida statute 1009.24.13 allows up to 5 percent of tuition per credit hour as the technology fee.

“The revenue from this fee shall be used to enhance instructional technology resources for students and faculty,” the statute says.

Students pay slightly more per credit hour in fees than they do in base tuition, according to 2017-18 numbers from the USF controller’s office. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

When USF established its technology fee, it chose the maximum: 5 percent. The 2017-18 undergraduate tuition rate at the Tampa campus is $105.07 per credit hour, according to the controller’s office. This means the student technology fee is $5.25 per credit hour. A student taking 15 credit hours will pay $78.75.

The student technology fee represents a small percentage of the total amount of fees USF students pay, according to data from the 2017-18 USF controller’s office. Graphic by Abby Rinaldi

Jenny Paulsen, assistant vice president of USF IT, said the fee has been used for a variety of projects both system wide and at the individual campus level. These range from putting Wi-Fi on campus to e-books in the library.

“I think all of [the projects] have been quite impactful in one way or another,” Paulsen said.

All of the projects the student technology fee has been used for in the past are posted on the USF IT website. Some of the projects listed include printer replacement in the library, BullSync, student access to Lynda.com and apps.usf.edu. The latter project is one Paulsen thinks is particularly noteworthy.

“Rather than you as a student having to go and buy these very expensive software packages yourself, the tech fee sponsored the ability for us to provide those software packages to all students through the apps.usf.edu portal,” she said.

Students on campus need varying degrees of technology for the work they do. While some students just use the printers in the library, the members of the Whitehatters computer security club require a little more. The club gathered for a meeting in the iTeach lounge in the College of Education on Sept. 29.

Alan Gay, an embedded software engineer at LGS Innovations, taught the Whitehatters members about ways of hacking into devices. He donated a device to the club to help them take power measurements – a ChipWhisperer Lite, which costs about $300.

At the end of the meeting, the students spoke with Gay and familiarized themselves with the machine. Brad Daniels, president of the Whitehatters club, said the topics and technology the club deals with tends to be advanced, and sometimes that means they need high level technology to go about their business.

“Some students have more money and a more degree of resources, better computers … but we do have students that can’t afford those resources or it’s not as easy to get and so in those cases we try to provide computing power to those that need it and that requires money,” Daniels said, “right now, most of the computer infrastructure we have was just free donations from individuals who are just friends of the club, but there’s always things that we need. There’s always things that we need more of and so we’re kind of always on the lookout for different sources of funding or resources.”

His club gets its funding from the engineering council within Student Government, which funds the club through activity and service fees. There are many resources the club uses on campus, Daniels said, such as the 3-D printing lab and computer labs for computer science students. However, there are some changes that he would like to see.

“What I would really like to see is a computing environment for students where they could create their own virtual machines because that’s really the main thing that I find students are lacking,” he said.

He said the club has considered applying for student technology fee grant, a process he needs to coordinate with faculty advisors who are more familiar with the process. As of right now, the club has never applied for technology fee money.

USF IT allocates the funding for these projects through a series of committees. Of the money students pay for the fee, 25 percent goes to funding system-wide projects, while the remaining 75 percent goes to funding projects on that student’s campus. The divisions include the three campuses, Tampa, Sarasota-Manatee, St. Petersburg and also USF Health.

Paulsen said there is a committee established for each entity with student, faculty and staff representation. These representatives are assigned the task of getting requests from their constituents.

“We leave it up to each of them on how they want to do that,” she said.

The committees are dedicated to or piggyback on other committees. The Tampa committee was formed just for the purpose of the technology fee. The system committee is actually the IT Management Committee. Health leverages the Health Technology Governance Group for its meetings.

“Some of the committees are standing committees that have other roles as well, so they meet on a regular basis anyway, and we hijack some of their meetings for the tech fee,” she said.

Each entity operates on its own cycle. These cycles all operate throughout the year and may or may not overlap. They don’t meet in excess, Paulsen said, usually meeting once near the beginning of the cycle and then once to make decisions on projects. The goal in selecting projects, she said, is to put students first and to align with the mission of the university.

“One of the things that we do encourage is investing in emerging technologies,” she said. “… The tech fee is a source of funding that’s encouraged to be used for trying out new technologies to see whether they do add value or not and if they do we can go on and … make use of that technology in the future.”

However, there are still some resources those like Daniels and the Whitehatters members would like to see. No matter how much or how advanced the technology that students at USF are using is, Daniels said he thinks it’s a good idea to have the fee fund technology projects on campus.

“Even somebody who’s not using technology heavily, I think the cost of some of these resources should be subsidized for the students that need it,” Daniel said. “It’s like taxes. There are people who use more public resources than other but everyone still pays their fair share of taxes because we’ve decided as a society that people who need food stamps or something should be able to get them … I think it’s kind of the same for the tech fee. Even if you don’t actually use resources that are funded by the tech fee, I still think it’s fair that everyone contribute.”

There are always more requests than what can be funded, Paulsen said, but she thinks the committee has done a good job.

“I think that the great part about it is we have delivered some great solutions for students in the space of technology, so it’s really been very valuable,” she said.

While Paulsen said the technology fund brings functional and newer technologies to USF, the beneficiaries of the fund are ultimately decided by the committee.

That Extra Step

Located in St. Petersburg, this school goes above and beyond when it comes to the concept of inclusion within learning environments.

Midtown Academy stands out because most schools do not use the inclusionary system, but rather separate students with disabilities. In every class, Midtown Academy includes students with disabilities in the same classes with other students in their grade.

“We have an inclusionary model in which all of our students who are special ed[ucation] [are] just in regular classrooms depending on their IEP, or Individualized Education Program,” says Portia Slaughter, Principal of Midtown Academy.

Teachers agree with Slaughter when it comes to the way education is taught at Midtown Academy, like Daniel Doolin, a teacher at this school.

“This school really showcases inclusion,” Doolin says. “When you put students together and you hold them all to a common standard, the low ones will rise to the high ones, and the high ones will pull them up.”

Speaking from experience, Doolin says the most important thing is getting to know your students personally.

“It is important that you have met their parents, that you know where they live, that you know what they do for fun, that you know their brothers’ names and sisters’ names,” Doolin says. “Because you will find throughout the day that you’re going to need that information to pull them back in.”

Slaughter grew up in the St. Petersburg community and is glad to give back. She finds that teachers are easily accommodating to children and their specific needs without separation.

Midtown is preparing many of their students for the real world, where they will not be separated because of their disability.

Local Café Offers Food For Some, Hope For Others

 

Inside the Box Café and Catering is a social enterprise of the Metropolitan Ministries, providing both vocational training and opportunities for work experience to the less fortunate.

Chef Cliff Barsi founded the culinary school program to help individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty learn their trade. The kitchen at Metropolitan Ministries is their classroom, and Inside the Box Café is their training ground.

“The reason we started Inside the Box Café is because I wanted a real life restaurant for them to work in,” Barsi said. “They go out to the cafés, they work on the line with the cooks there so they get that skill of urgency-something that you just don’t learn in a normal culinary school. Then, they go back to the kitchen and they do some practical cooking classes with our chef.”

The 16-week program is funded by JP Morgan Chase Bank. All students that are accepted into the program receive a full scholarship.

Eliu DeLeon is one of those students, preparing to graduate. DeLeon hopes to become a chef at a fine dining restaurant upon leaving Inside the Box.

“A lot of my peers that have already graduated have ended up in a lot of fine dining companies,” DeLeon said.

Chely Figueroa is the catering coordinator at Inside the Box. Before that, though, she had become homeless in 2009.

“I found myself walking 18 miles to this place here, Metropolitan Ministries, to find a safe haven,” Figueroa said.

Barsi called her one day, asking her to run the downtown storefront.

All proceeds from Inside the Box Café and Catering go directly back to Metropolitan Ministries to help others in need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Focus Education Brief March 24, 2017

In this education brief: a St. Petersburg teacher is surprised with a $25,000 award; a local elementary school is providing for its students in and out of the classroom; some Bay Area teachers will be receiving a bonus through the Best and Brightest program; a new Riverview school is named after a civil rights activist.

Florida Focus Education Brief March 3, 2017

In this education brief: USF graduates have higher salaries than the national average; Bay area schools are failing under Department of Education regulations; Pasco county hopes to become the home to a statewide forensics lab; Pasco county will be opening a preforming arts center in Cypress Creek Middle-High School.

Local Organization Inspires Young Girls

The Centre for Girls is a youth organization aimed at girls from ages 5 to 14. It is led by Sartura Shuman-Smith, the center’s program director. The center is also organized by program manager, Walter Jennings.

“This place is so therapeutic and so healing for me,” Shuman-Smith said. “It is just so important for me to know I have a purpose.”

When asked about the focus of the Centre for Girls, Shuman-Smith said, “We’re not creating girls or enhancing girls, we are creating women and developing women.” She talked about the accounting classes, dance instruction, as well as a Lego program for the young women ages five to nine.

Walter Jennings, the program manager, is in charge of after-school help, as well as developing a curriculum for all of the girls attending.

“Our heart’s passion and desire is for young people to come up with good, constructive ways to deal with some of the issues and challenges that they have,” Jennings said. He talked about how his girls attended the center and how much he feels he owes the organization.

The Centre for Girls is located on 105 W. Sligh Avenue and serves an enrichment program for girls ages 5 to 14. The program is not free, although the website offers program assistance. There are currently 46 girls attending the center.

Empowering Freshmen Academic Success, Beyond

(Photo by Daniel Fisher)
(Photo by Daniel Fisher)

Enrolling at USF for the first time after moving away from New England was a culture shock for freshmen Brianna Bizier.

After attending the Week of Welcome event “Welcoming to a Rewarding Year, Welcome to a Rewarding Career,” the education major said she is happy to find comfort on campus.

“My first impression coming here was that it was big and almost daunting because I came from a small high school in New England,” Bizier said. “By applying for the Provost’s Scholarship Program, I am confident that it will open opportunities to pursue my future career as an English teacher.”

After meeting the staff and faculty from the College of Education at the TECO Hall, Bizier said USF is well prepared in offering their services to help students succeed in college.

“As I got to know the school more, I learned that the staff and faculty are very welcoming and helpful,” Bizier said. “When life gets tough, students have to ask for help because you cannot do everything in life alone.”

Even other freshmen at the event were seeing USF in a positive light.

“Networking with people is important in earning a college education because it influences how you would achieve your goals in life,” said Jonathan DuQuaine, a major in mathematics.

With a love for math and a passion to teach, DuQuaine aspires to be a high school math teacher.

“I had a few teachers in the past that really love math, which inspired me to be more fluent with all levels of math like calculus and algebra,” DuQuaine said.

DuQuaine is confident that his new techniques and way of presenting his knowledge would be beneficial.

“When I teach, I want to be able to instruct what I know to students and feel good about passing new knowledge to them,” DuQuaine said.

With the College of Education inviting freshmen to the WOW event on Aug. 25, the assistant director of Student Academic Services Lindsey Williams said the new school year is looking bright.

“So far, we have about 92 first-year students who entered in the summer and fall semester, and are pursuing a degree in the College of Education,” Williams said.  “We want to show that USF has a lot of opportunities for students to succeed in college, and after they graduate.”

Non-profit organization helps children succeed

According to the website, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, Junior Achievement brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential.

Fifth grade student Sonja Assidy is the CEO of Bright House. She works hard to make sure her business runs smoothly.

“I take checks to Kane’s Furniture, I go get the checks from Kane’s Furniture, bring it here, make sure my CFO signs it and then put it where it needs to go,” Assidy said.

Sally Eidge is the Director of Junior Achievement and sees over a hundred students daily. She wants every student to learn a valuable lesson.

“They need to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you actually have to earn it and then spend it wisely,” Eidge said.

Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program where they learn basic economic principles such as how to manage their personal bank account.

Kelly Thorne is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Deer Park Elementary and prepared her students for 12 weeks prior to coming to JA Biztown.

“We spend a lot of time on how to write checks, how to deposit checks, that whole process and how to budget their money,” Thorne said. “How when they get a paycheck, they have to make sure they save some money for their lunch, and then they have some spending money.”

USF Library Serves as Study Sanctuary

The library at the University of South Florida is one of the coolest places on campus. It wouldn’t be a library if there weren’t books available for students to check out; however, some students don’t know that the library has so much more to offer.

“This is certainly not your grandmother’s library,” USF librarian Susan Ariew said in reference to the fact that the library has evolved a great deal with respect to keeping up with technology.

The library has many free resources available to help students be successful in their classes.

“We have laptops that you can check out at the library and we have iPads that you can check out,” said USF librarian Maryellen Allen. “We have the Digital Media Commons that have multimedia equipment and resources.”

In order to encourage students to use the library for any type of assignment- whether it’s a research paper or multimedia project- the library has something for everyone. One of the prominent features that students find convenient is the library schedule.

The building is normally open 24 hours Sunday through Thursday. It closes at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, making it accessible for students regardless of their schedule outside of the classroom.

With hundreds of computers and several floors of study space, the library is the main attraction on campus. Considering that final exams are next week, the 24-hour schedule will be extended to Friday and Saturday, giving even more students a place to focus and properly prepare for their big tests.

You can find out what’s new at the USF library by visiting http://www.lib.usf.edu/ .

 

 

Affordability of education abroad

 

Once the haze of being accepted into the USF in Florence summer abroad program wore off, reality kicked in and showed up asking for payments.

Louise Cardenas, 19, didn’t expect to be in such a financial bind. Finances had never been an issue since she had been receiving aid since her first semester at USF. With no coverage being offered for her trip over the summer months, Cardenas was at a crossroads.

“I don’t think that abroad programs are affordable for the average student  trying to minimize unnecessary spending,” Cardenas said. “The only way to realistically study abroad is by paying out of pocket because you can’t count on scholarships or financial aid.”

The USF Education Abroad office has well-established programs in over 25 countries giving students a variety of choices, but many shy away from the thought of even applying because studying abroad is associated with being unaffordable.

Students are encouraged to seize the opportunity to take anywhere from a semester to a year abroad. While the motivation for studying abroad for each student is different, the most common reason is for the experience and introduction of a new culture.

Students already hold the financial responsibilities of paying up to $6,410 for tuition alone not including housing, books or miscellaneous expenses. Any additional financial expenses could be difficult to fund.

Each program cost varies on the location and the amount of time spent on the program. Most semester programs are estimated on the higher end of about $5,000 for tuition and housing. When adding on airfare, passport fees, books and travel money, the price dramatically increases. Students must consider whether the experience is worth the stress it could bring financially.

Jim Pulos, the associate director of Education Abroad, has encountered many students who believe that abroad programs are cost prohibitive.

“It’s a common misconception,” said Pulos. “We have designed our programs to be within the range of  most students’ finances.”

In some cases the costs of a program can result in being around the same price or cheaper than a normal semester. Pulos recommended that all students seek financial assistance.

The office holds regular funding sessions inviting presenters from other on-campus scholarship offices. Students are also eligible for grants, loans and scholarships open exclusively to students studying internationally. In the past, as much as $34,550 have been given away in scholarships.

Programs like USF in Florence are prime examples of the scholarship exclusivity offered. The Florence School of Record scholarship is a $1,000 award available to 35 of the programs committed students.

USF abroad offices are dedicated to making the programs affordable, but each student’s eligibility varies. Many students don’t qualify for grants or miss scholarships due to limited awards. One students experience could be entirely out of pocket while another may never know the stress of the financial side of spectrum.

Irene John, 20, was one of the fortunate students who had her expenses covered by the George W. Jenkins Scholarship. John traveled to Costa Rica last spring and has made plans to apply for another program.

“If I didn’t have my scholarship, I would still choose to study abroad,” John said. “The money is nothing in comparison to the experience you get to have.”

The response from students who have participated in abroad programs is conclusive in the money being worth the experience.

Cardenas happens to be one of the 35 students in her program who have received the scholarship award. Although it doesn’t calm her worries about the financial expenses she’s still dealing with, she is at ease knowing that the abroad offices do indeed offer assistance as advertised.

“Money plays a huge part, but it isn’t everything,” Cardenas said . “I would encourage everyone to apply regardless of their funds because like they say this is once in a lifetime.”

A Place To Play, Learn And Grow

The Glazer Children’s Museum hosts a wide variety of interactive exhibits with topics ranging from the deep ocean to deep space, which kids can play with to understand the world around them. Open year-round, the museum is constantly cycling through new events to make every visit a unique experience.

“As far as the events go, it’s an all staff kind of opinions. All of us continue to feed our opinions as to what will work and what caters to the families in which we serve,” said Alyssa Ortiz, marketing and communications manager at Glazer.

Frequent visitors to the museum have the option to purchase memberships. According to the museum website,  members gain access to special features, including: invitations to member-only events and previews, discounts to partnering organizations, museums, and aquariums, three dollars off general admission for guests and more.

For visitors that frequent the museum less often, there are still many activities that all children can enjoy.

“I love bringing my daughter to the museum because the museum offers so many different activities for her to learn and do,” said Vu Lieu, a visitor at the Glazer Children’s Museum.

Parents can be confident that their children will enjoy learning through interactions with various activities in a safe, controlled environment.

Visit the Glazer Children’s Museum and start the journey to a bright future.

GCM_Banner_2

Photo courtesy of the Glazer Children’s Museum website.

Elementary school bench helps build friendships

Lacoochee Elementary School received a new bench this past March, but its purpose is much deeper than providing a place to sit. It’s being used to spread kindness and friendship to the students.

“What it is, it’s a friendship bench, but the name we gave it is called the ‘Kindness Corner’,” said Nancy Montoya, guidance counselor at Lacoochee Elementary.

The granite bench sits on the border of the elementary school, displaying school’s eagle mascot as well as the Kiwanis logo.
The granite bench sits on the border of the elementary school, displaying school’s eagle mascot as well as the Kiwanis logo.

The bench is a place for students to help others and make friends in the process. If a student is sad, lonely or needs a friend, they can sit on the bench. Students who see someone on the bench are encouraged to go up to him or her and strike up a conversation. They are to ask what is wrong, what they can do to make it better and be a friend in their time of need.

“It is a way for a student to be an up-stander and help someone else rather than ignore someone when they are in pain,” Montoya said.

Montoya got the idea for the bench from an article geared toward anti-bullying. She felt the students at Lacoochee could use it as a tool to gain social skills and build relationships. She contacted the Kiwanis Club of Dade City and they loved the idea.

“When Nancy contacted me at Kiwanis about having us possibly fund the bench, I couldn’t say no,” said Keith Williams, president of the Kiwanis Club of Dade City. “Friends are such a vital part of childhood, and the Kindness Corner is going to be a place for friendships to flourish.”

Lacoochee Elementary School is located in an area that struggles economically. Surrounding the school are three government housing developments. The school’s graduation enhancement teacher, Daniel Vazquez, says the majority of the students live in those developments.

“About 96 to 97 percent of them are on free or reduced lunch, which means they are living at or below the poverty level,” Vazquez said.

When Kiwanis donated the bench to the school, there was a large dedication to show the students the purpose of the bench and how to utilize it. The student response was overwhelming.

“The next day students were running up to me saying they see someone on the bench and they’re going to find out what’s wrong and make a friend,” Montoya said.

Many students believe the Kindness Corner is a great addition to Lacoochee.

“It’s a good idea because, if you don’t have a friend, then wait on the bench and then a friend might come to you,” said Nathaniel Vento, first grader at Lacoochee.

With the success of “Kindness Corner”, the faculty at the school believes the bench is going to be building friendships for years to come.

 

USF professors awarded grant to launch education app

TAMPA, Fl.- Two University of South Florida professors in the college of education are working together as husband and wife to develop a new app that will allow young children in grades K-5 to access primary resources, or firsthand accounts of events and experiences throughout history.

Michael Berson, professor of social science education and advisor for Muzzy Lane Software, and his wife, Ilene Berson, professor of early childhood in the department of childhood education and literacy studies, are working with Muzzy Lane Software and a team of people throughout the country on the “KidCitizen” project. In September, “KidCitizen” was one of three educational app development grants given by the Library of Congress. The grant is approximately $320,000.

This project isn’t the first time that the Bersons have teamed up.

“We have been working for a very long time, since we were undergraduate students in college” said Michael Berson.

He said that they have a good working relationship, citing her “thoughtful approach to the exploration of curriculum” and her “unique perspectives on the project.” While he is excited to work with his wife, he is just as excited to work with the rest of the team. All were handpicked to be part of the project.

“It is truly a national treasure and to be working with them to create next generations of learning tools, it is a very big honor for us here at the college of education,” Berson said.

The team will be identifying developmentally appropriate primary resources for young children through photos, journal entries, news articles and other resources the Library of Congress has to offer. The focus of the project is on teaching young children about Congress and civics.

“We know, historically speaking, from research in our field that children don’t learn when they simply peruse a text,” Berson said. “They have to engage in content and look and explore and get dirty and dig deep when they’re dealing with history, because for a lot of kids they look at history and they say well that happened a long time ago, that has nothing to do with me.”

Daryl Saunders, social studies supervisor and generalist for area IV schools in Hillsborough County, specializes in implementation of standards, curriculum and development. She will be making sure that the final product can fit in with the curriculum, in the Florida state standards.

“We want more variety of resources and we want to find ways to get more complex resources in the hands of kids in a meaningful way,” Saunders said.

Most children have a phone or some type of device. Rather than shunning the use of the device completely, a ramification of education is occurring.

“What we hope to do is connect children through images to learn about congress to learn about civics, you know, what can they do in their community, by looking at the past and connecting it to their present day lives,” Berson said.

Berson hopes that the app is something that is easily accessible for students and teachers. While it will be free, that doesn’t always mean that people will use or be aware of it. The team will be working no only on design and content but also on how they can make accessibility a reality.

“Kids change, society changes and we have to change,” Saunders said.