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Grants allow ISDS Department, School of Accountancy to expand undergraduate programs

Two new grants from the State of Florida will help information systems and accounting students at USF take smaller classes, learn more, and, ideally, graduate in less time.

The schools of accountancy at USF, the University of Central Florida, and Florida International University all received money from the TEAm grant -- the Targeted Educational Attainment program, supporting Florida's universities to educate students in high-demand employment areas -- with the accounting portion totaling $3.64 million. USF is the lead on the grant, having received $1.1 million in funds.

The same three institutions are also participating in a second TEAm grant, which will help increase the number of graduates trained in computer and information technology. USF's piece of that grant is $705,000, and the ISDS department will implement it.

The "Aligning Workforce and Higher Education for Florida's Future" report from the Florida Commission on Higher Education Access and Educational Attainment pointed out several "gaps" between accounting education and workforce needs in the state -- specifically, a shortfall of almost 1,000 workers between the demand and supply for accountants. In November, the State University System Board of Governors announced the availability of competitively awarded grants to address the problem.

The School of Accountancy program will start in full this summer. Over the five-year time frame of the grant, the three universities expect to produce 500 additional accounting graduates, reducing the demand-supply shortfall in the state.

"We are very excited to receive this grant, as it will allow us to hire additional faculty and implement a number of initiatives that we believe will increase the number of quality accounting graduates," said Uday Murthy, chair of USF's School of Accountancy. He added that he is particularly thrilled about the plan to develop a series of short videos in the style of Khan Academy, a free non-profit website developed to educate students worldwide and make a wide variety of topics accessible, to help USF accounting students better understand complex upper-level accounting topics.

The grant money will be put toward boosting graduation rates by capping class sizes and increasing the number of class sections by hiring new faculty members, developing online tutorials and increasing tutors to help students understand the material, hiring internship coordinators to identify opportunities for students, providing scholarships, and other initiatives.

For the Information Systems & Decision Sciences grant, with computer-related degrees expected to increase by 67 percent over the next five years, this money will help these universities prepare for the increases.

"The grant funding will, most importantly, help us provide Florida employers with more high quality talent in the critical MIS field, which is at the intersection of business and technology," said Balaji Padmanabhan, chair of the ISDS Department. "The grant support will help us recruit faculty and launch a student success center of teaching assistants and staff. We will need this additional capacity to handle the expected increase in the undergraduate population as well as to work closely with them to ensure their success as determined by succeeding in their courses, job placement and timely graduation."