Crunched budget is USF’s biggest hurdle

In her fall address, USF President Judy Genshaft said USF — along with most other public universities nationwide — is suffering due to budget cuts.

USF, she said, receives only about 25 percent of its funding from the state. The rest of the money comes from private donations.

“Because of this, we all must be creative, from administration to academic departments … in searching for new ways to generate revenue and control expenses,” Genshaft said.

Genshaft told nearly 300 faculty and staff in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center ballroom that in the midst of the economic problems that USF faces, she continues to work with the other university presidents to lobby the state for more funding of higher education.

“Our message is clear — higher education is the best investment one can make in the economic, educational, cultural and physical health of Florida,” she said.

Genshaft said that the 11 university presidents have set goals to achieve more funding. This, she says, hinges on the Florida Legislature providing adequate allocation of resources.

“Funding Florida’s public universities is not an expenditure; it is an investment in the future, an obligation to our children and a powerful engine to drive the economic climate of our state,” Genshaft said.

USF’s population of more than 41,000 students on its four campuses makes funding for new undergraduates difficult. This fall, there are 4,784 first-time college students — a 15 percent increase and the largest freshmen class in USF history. However, Genshaft said the Tampa campus is at its limit and the state needs to recognize that USF and other universities cannot continue to support undergraduate growth without funding.

“We can’t grow any more at the Tampa campus without more resources,” she said. “We simply cannot sustain our aspirations of reaching higher levels if we are forced to offer more and bigger classes each semester.”

Genshaft addressed student concerns as well, saying that a leadership team is trying to resolve the difficulties with the parking situation.

“We have opened a lot of surface parking on the grass and increased the speed of drop-off and pick-up time for the Bull Runners,” she said. “We are still better than UCF and FSU though.”

As for the faculty, Genshaft informed them that the Board of Trustees would present a full report of the progress the university has made in achieving its strategic plan.

The strategic plan is grouped into five categories: research and scholarship; health science; academics and campus environment; administrative infrastructure and fiscal self-sufficiency; and community engagement and economic development.

“We are making great strides in each of these categories,” Genshaft said.

For example, USF received $254.8 million in research support last year, which is a record and is 11 percent above the plan’s goal. In addition, the university broke ground for a new College of Nursing building.

Genshaft also named Ian Phillips, vice president of research for USF, the chairman of a search committee for a new medical dean and vice president of Health Sciences. Robert Daugherty will be replaced when an interim dean is named.

“I am most appreciative of the work that Daugherty has done during his tenure at USF and I am confident we will recruit a top leader who will continue our distinguished journey,” she said.

By improving on these categories and others, Genshaft said the leaders of higher education will attempt to create a new type of institution.

“We have to extend ourselves in partnership and create multiple points of access to the university in our community and throughout the world,” Genshaft said.