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USF seeking $37.4M more every year from Legislature to become top-tier national university

The school claims the investment would drive Florida’s economy.

The University of South Florida is asking the Florida Legislature for $37.4 million in new recurring state funding, to begin in the 2020-2021 school year.

The USF Board of Trustees unanimously approved the ask Monday.

“With USF’s momentum, the impact of additional state resources of $37.4 million represents an opportunity for the state to further support one of the most promising universities in the nation,” the request reads. 

Funds would be deployed to increase student success, increase individual attention to students by lowering the student-to-faculty ratio, increase faculty resources and productivity including competitive salaries, more National Academy member faculty and more external grant funding, enhance the quality of incoming students, provide a better institutional reputation and to increase community support through philanthropic and alumni giving.

“Evidence shows that a dollar invested in USF has stretched farther and delivered greater returns to students and the economy during the last decade than at any public university in Florida or the United States,” the request claims. 

The request for funding would apply to the same year USF consolidates its three regional campuses — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota/Manatee — into one for accreditation purposes. 

“The multiplier effect of new financial investments in a single USF will greatly benefit Florida, as one of its largest and fastest growing regions is recognized internationally as a destination for exceptionally talented students and faculty. It sends a message to corporations looking to avail themselves of that talent in a large and growing population center,” the request reads. 

The funds would be used in a variety of ways including $6.2 million to retain high-performing faculty, $4.4 million to hire 10 new National Academy members and world class scholars, $4.4 million to hire 20 new full professors, $3.2 million to hire 20 full-time associate professors, $5.5 million to hire 40 new full-time assistant professors and $5.3 million to hire 50 new full-time instructors.

Another $2.2 million would be used to hire 20 new technical support personnel to support the new faculty hires. 

The funding request also includes $1.5 million to enhance undergraduate student recruitment and support and $2.5 million to enhance graduate student recruitment and support as well as $2 million to support innovative new national and global research partnerships. 

The school claims a broad return on investment to the state by strengthening Florida’s position as a top destination for higher education. 

Among other goals, the new funding request would seek to advance USF’s position in reaching eligibility metrics to obtain an invitation into the Association of American Universities, an elite class of higher-education institutions that only includes 34 American universities. Only the University of Florida is currently a member in Florida. 

USF has a way to go to meet the AAU’s metrics, but it’s close in several areas.

The average AAU first year retention rate is 92 percent. USF’s is 91 percent. USF is also only 1 percent lower than the AAU average for six-year graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients and the average SAT score for incoming students in the 25th-75th percentile is between 1230-1350 compared to an AAU range of 1200 to 1400. 

USF already exceeds the AAU average for alumni giving. 

One area that stands to benefit from additional state funding is the average spending per student and average faculty salary, of which USF lags far behind AAU averages. The average USF faculty salary is $135,614 compared to the AAU, which is more than $160,000.

Average student spending at USF is $33,241 compared to more than $75,000 among AAU members. 

USF claims distinct benefits to the state economy by further investing in USF’s success. AAU members represent fewer than 2 percent of American universities, yet those schools are awarded 60 percent of the nation’s approximately $40 billion in federally funded research annually and more than 70 percent of the nation’s Nobel Prize winners, National Academy of Science members and National Medal of Science winners are faculty members at AAU institutions. 

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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