USF: A real cash cow

USF’s influence was assessed a monetary value Tuesday when USF President Judy Genshaft announced the results of a 2004 study yielding an economic impact of $3.2 billion on the Tampa Bay community.

As the region’s fourth-largest employer, about a third of USF’s economic impact, or $1.2 billion, came from faculty and staff payrolls. Another $635.6 million came from school operations, while $597.2 million was from state and federal financial aid.

USF also spent $206 million on construction projects.

“Our success has exceeded expectations,” Genshaft said in front of Mayor Pam Iorio and a room full of former USF presidents and other local dignitaries in the atrium of USF’s Research Park. “With an original investment of $50,000 just 50 years ago, the University has become one of the two fastest growing research universities in the country. I would say legions of people in Tampa made a savvy investment in 1956, and it is one that will continue to pay powerful dividends.”

But 50 years ago – with only three buildings surrounded by a sea of sand dunes – USF’s first student, Barbara Johnson, remembers having to register for classes at the home of a USF dean.

“It did not look inviting when it first started opening,” Johnson said. “(Now) it’s like two different places on the same property.”

Construction projects for 2006 include preliminary phases for the new Phyllis P. Marshall Center, more than 350 new beds for on-campus housing, a new fine arts facility, a health clinic and more parking facilities.

“But even with that, we still don’t keep up with demand,” Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dick Beard said. “We are not putting up buildings with the hope that they will come. They are coming – the students, researchers, faculty – and we are building to accommodate them.”

According to the St. Petersburg Times, 10 years ago another study estimated USF’s impact on the surrounding community at $1 billion.

“I was told 15 years ago that USF had the economic impact of a Super Bowl every year, but it looks like the numbers have tripled,” said Jim Norman, chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission.

Administrators have been trying to recruit top faculty and students in order to make USF one of the top 50 research universities in the country.

“There’s a part of me that just wants to cheer because the institution looks so good,” former USF President Betty Castor said. “You can do better to attract top faculty and students if you can provide them space and support.”

Staff members under the direction of USF’s Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci used IMPLAN, a commercial economic impact modeling system, to draft the study.

Data was taken from the Tampa campus and USF’s three regional campuses.Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties were taken into account as the impact area.