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Santa Fe Set to Unveil Four-Year Accounting Program

(Stephanie Byrne/WUFT News)
(Stephanie Byrne/WUFT News)

Santa Fe students will have a new four-year program to look forward to in Fall 2017. The college will introduce an accounting baccalaureate degree program in Gainesville.

The Florida State Board of Education unanimously approved the program earlier this month. The accounting program will be delivered as a hybrid degree, meaning that courses will be offered both in-person and online.

The accounting program will join the ranks of eight other bachelor’s degree programs at Santa Fe including nursing, early childhood education, and industrial biotechnology.

According to Santa Fe College President Dr. Jackson Sasser, the program’s tuition will not exceed $10,000.

“It’s one of the degrees that will always be needed,” said Dr. Sasser.

Dr. Sasser, who has been Santa Fe College’s President for 15 years, said that there is a local demand for accountants.

“We’ve been searching for accountants for almost two years,” he said, in regards to filling accountant positions on Santa Fe’s campus.

According to Santa Fe's Baccalaureate Proposal Application, “UF accounting graduates are offered and usually accept lucrative job offers with national and international firms, leaving the local market in dire need of accountants.”

Dr. Sasser referred to this as “a gap left in the local area.”

Santa Fe College faculty members are not the only people who recognize the need for local accountants. The proposal application stated that Dr. Sasser and Provost Ed Bonahue began discussing the possible program in October 2015 after local employers said they were having a hard time hiring.

Dr. Gary McGill, the associate dean and director of UF’s Fisher School of Accounting, said a majority of students leave the Gainesville area post-graduation. Since UF’s accounting school is ranked in the top 10 in the United States, students receive lucrative job offers not only from the surrounding regional area, but out of state as well.

“90 plus percent take entry level jobs in international and regional public accounting firms. About half start in large Florida cities and half go out of state, with Atlanta and New York City as the most popular locations,” he said in an email.

Santa Fe's proposal argues that because a large percentage of accounting students are not drawn to local businesses, employers are struggling to fill the gaps.

“Typically fewer than 5 graduates out of 180 stay in Alachua County,” said Dr. McGill.

David Gaitanis, Managing Partner of Purvis Gray & Company, LLP, served on the Accounting Advisory Committee for the proposal. His company hires between 10 and 15 employees statewide each year, but he feels there is a need for local accountants.

“I think it’s gonna [sic] be good for the community, I think it’s gonna[sic] provide people the opportunity to get a degree that can then turn into a good paying job with benefits in our community,” said Gaitanis.

The University of Florida alumnus thinks there is a “vacuum” for qualified accounting students.

“It’s tough for us locally because we never keep them [students].”

This program proposal is the 11th four-year degree program approved for a state college since 2015. A discussion in Florida’s capital has been ongoing over how many bachelor’s degrees state colleges may offer.

Senate Bill 374 can potentially place a cap on how many students in state colleges can pursue four-year degrees. Those who are opposed to state colleges offering too many four-year programs are worried they impose on the opportunities that four-year universities offer.

Yet many students find it beneficial for state colleges to offer four-year degrees.

"I think that's a no brainer, with low tuition costs and more easily accessible courses, the state schools should indefinitely be looking to add more 4 year programs," said Spencer Schwartz, a student in his first semester at Santa Fe.

Dr. Sasser emphasized that the focus of this project is not about boosting reputation and national recognition, but to meet the needs of local employers and students.

He met with Santa Fe College students in Starke, Fla. to talk about the proposed program today.

“We’re still the community’s college, it allows us to serve,” Dr. Sasser said.

Stephanie is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org