Research. Grants. Graduate studies. Rankings.
All of these issues are important focal points for the University of South Florida. They were also the core of USF President Judy Genshaft’s Spring Address, which she delivered Wednesday afternoon.
One thing was missing from her speech, however: undergraduate studies.
Genshaft spoke for nearly 40 minutes on the achievements and advancements USF saw in 2006, such as the Carnegie Foundation naming USF one of the top research universities in the country with a record $310 million in funding, as well as a $1.6 billion budget and the National Institute of Health naming USF Health’s department of pediatrics the third best in the country in research grants.
She elaborated on the “world-class faculty and staff” at USF, which is mainly brought in due to the University’s research.
However, USF’s biggest population – its undergraduate students – was barely mentioned.
When Genshaft did mention the undergraduates, it was based on their presence on campus, such as that 50 percent of freshmen enrolled for this academic year live on campus, and that there was a record-setting 44,038 enrolled for the fall 2006 semester.
Research is an important aspect of advancement. However, undergraduate students may be even more important.
USF’s graduation rate – both four-year and six-year – is in the hole. According to a report released by the Pappas Consulting Group Inc. last week, USF’s four-year graduation rate is 21 percent – lower then University of Florida (55 percent), Florida State University (46.1), New College of Florida (44.7) and University of Central Florida (32.6), as well as University of North Florida and University of West Florida, both with just slightly higher rates than USF. USF’s six-year rate is also less than 50 percent.
USF’s top-notch research means little if the University can’t get students out of the undergraduate program, because they won’t be able to move onto the graduate program and research that Genshaft boasts.
Genshaft strives for USF to be one of the top universities in the nation. But if Genshaft doesn’t start to put the undergraduate students ahead of research or graduate studies, prospective students will choose a university that gives more funding and consideration to its undergraduate program.
Genshaft needs to realize that undergraduates are one of the most important aspects of the University. Without them, this campus would be empty. Instead of campaigning for donations for research funding, Genshaft should aim for more money to fund the undergraduate programs that need it. If not, USF’s research will diminish.