Florida’s TEAm initiative benefits students in IT fields

Jobs in computer science fields are rapidly increasing. Job projections show that by 2018 over fifty percent of STEM positions will be in IT-related fields.

To fill these growing workforce demands, in 2013 the Florida Board of Governors issued a $15 million grant to go towards increasing student enrollment, persistence and completion in the state's fastest-growing fields. The Targeted Educational Attainment (TEAm) initiative awarded $8.5 million alone to the University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and Florida International University for two projects directly related to students majoring in computer science, computer engineering and information technology.

On average, most STEM programs take longer than four years to complete, often making it difficult for students financially to complete their degree. Such financial stress can be especially burdensome for international students, who may feel pressed to put their education on hold.

Fortunately, the TEAm initiative efforts at USF, UCF and FIU have allowed the universities to fund more teaching assistantships. These assistantships increase universities' teaching capacities all the while providing graduate students with a stipend, tuition waiver, and in some cases, other benefits such as health insurance.

"Becoming a TA was very helpful to my study and living...I gained the experience and skills on how to teach a class. The teaching assistantship also reduces my financial pressure and lets me focus on my research without worrying about money," said Tao Hou, a PhD student at USF and INTO USF alumnus.

"Without my teaching assistantship I don't think I would have the chance to continue my studies and research," said Renhao Liu, a PhD student at USF who began his postsecondary journey as a pathway student with INTO USF. "Since a PhD needs a long time to finish, tuition becomes something hard for a master student or a family to afford."

Thanks to the TEAm initiative, more students at Florida's metropolitan universities are being empowered to pursue degrees in IT-related fields with the assurance they will receive the support they will need to complete their degree. Additionally, they can progress with the confidence that they will attain a sustainable, well-paying career after they graduate. For instance, in 2015, more than 56 percent of TEAm initiative graduates reported earning an income of more than $48,000 per year. That's nearly $15,000 more than the median first-year earnings of Florida's bachelor's degree earners, according to a report released by College Measures in 2015.