Budget conference: Legislature allocates over $100 million for USF STEM programs
USF students kick off the Fall 2021 semester. Image via USF.

usf fall
The university is home to more than 50,000 students.

The University of South Florida has a busy year ahead, amassing millions for special projects centered around medicine, tech and environmental science from this year’s proposed budget.

The funding for the projects comes in addition to the more than $300 million in general funds allocated to the university by the state. Based in Tampa with campuses in St. Pete and Sarasota, the university is home to more than 50,000 students.

The budget represents the consensus between the House and the Senate for the state’s financial priorities. Individual spending items are still subject to the Governor’s veto pen, however. Last year Gov. Ron DeSantis was thought to have wielded a relatively light touch when he slashed $1.5 billion out of the $101 billion budget.

Below is a rundown of the largest projects the Legislature has agreed to fund at USF.

$75 million for USF’s Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility

Perhaps the biggest appropriation the university is set to receive for a single project is $75 million to start building a new Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility on its St. Petersburg campus.

The university announced plans for the project in January, saying it seeks to use the center to address “the existential challenges created by climate change, including sea level rise, high tide flooding events and other coastal hazards.” The center will build on the university’s current College of Marine Science and bring a variety of new undergraduate and graduate programs to the St. Pete campus.

In addition to providing a state-of-the-art research and instructional space for students from the colleges of Marine Science, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering, the facility will also house the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation — a priority championed by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $80.3 million according to the university, with at least $20 million coming from USF, as recommended by the Florida Board of Governors.

The funds will be used to demolish the northwest wing of the existing Marine Science Complex at 830 First St. South in St. Pete, and replaced with a new four-story addition, and the remainder of the 80-year-old complex would be remodeled to accommodate research labs, teaching labs and classrooms for new programs.

$43.5 million for Florida Cybersecurity at USF

The budget has set aside $37 million in recurring funding for USF’s Florida Center for Cybersecurity, also known as Cyber Florida. The program, which was established by the state in 2014, is housed by the university. Cyber Florida is the state’s go-to for cybersecurity education, research and community outreach.

A portion of the funding, $7 million, will be used by Cyber Florida to conduct a “comprehensive risk assessment of the state’s critical infrastructure and provide recommendations to support actionable solutions for improvement of the state’s preparedness and resilience to significant cybersecurity incidents,” according to the budget. The university will be required to submit a draft of recommendations by Jan. 9, 2023, and a final assessment by June 30, 2023. The assessment will be delivered to the Governor, state legislative leaders and the Florida Cybersecurity Advisory Council.

The remaining $30 million is for the center to conduct cybersecurity training for state and local government staff.

The budget also lists $6.5 million in recurring funds for USF’s Florida Cybersecurity Initiative in general.

$38 million for USF’s nursing program

The university’s nursing program is also expected to receive a hefty bonus this year, with the budget directing $33 million in non-recurring funds to expand USF’s nursing center.

The expansion, detailed in an appropriations request filed by Sen. Danny Burgess, is an attempt to address the state’s nursing shortage, according to the request. The funding will be used to reconfigure and equip existing space on campus to accommodate more nursing students, according to the request.

That’s not all though. The Florida Center for Nursing at USF will also receive $5 million in recurring funds, according to the budget, for the same purpose: “to address supply and demand for nursing, including issues of recruitment, retention, and utilization of nurse workforce resources.” The center will be tasked with developing a strategic statewide plan for nursing supply in Florida, the budget states.

$3 million USF Sarasota-Manatee Academic STEM Facility

The USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus is planning to construct a new facility to make room for more academic programs related to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

According to an appropriation request filed by Sen. Jim Boyd, the funding will be used to build a new facility to house “STEM-related academic programs, provide new research capabilities and increase research productivity, host academic conferences and community events, attract and retain faculty and students, and support national, state, regional and local demands for graduates with STEM-related degrees.”

The state’s proposed $3 million accounts for 60% of the project funding, with another $2 million secured from other donors, according to the request.

$1.84 million for USF Florida Mental Health Institute

The Legislature allocated $1.84 million USF’s Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute to be used for its Autism Center. USF’s Florida Mental Health Institute is one of the state’s seven designated Autism Centers, and the funding provided by the specific $1.84 million appropriation is to be used to provide “appropriate nutritional information to parents of children served,” the budget states.

$750,000 for USF Eye Institute Pediatric Vision Center

The university’s Eye Institute is set to receive $750,000 from the state’s budget for its Pediatric Vision Center.

According to an appropriations request filed by Sen. Darryl Rouson, the Pediatric Vision Center is a partnership with the USF Eye Institute and Lions Eye Institute. It will provide vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams, treatments and surgical interventions, and dispense glasses as needed at no cost to children who are uninsured, the request states.

In addition to the $750,000 laid out by the state, the center is also set to receive $787,000 from local governments, according to the request.

“This will be the first facility in the region dedicated to pediatric vision care. It will provide vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams, treatment or surgical intervention, glasses if needed as well as age-appropriate STEM educational curricula to teach students about how eyes work and how to care for them, including general hygiene practices,” the request states.

$500,000 for Alternative Treatment Options for Veterans at USF

Another $500,000 in funding is set to go to USF to serve as the administrator of a program to assist veterans with PTSD through alternative treatments, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

In addition to helping veterans, the university will also collect veteran self-reported health data through the participating service providers and enrolled veterans, according to a funding request filed by Sen. Tom Wright.

This program subsidized the treatment options for veterans. The treatment options provided by the program are currently not offered in VA and other formal military treatment facilities. More than 100 veterans are served by this program, according to the request.

The program received $200,000 last year, according to the request.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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