Everyone from USF President Judy Genshaft to freshman softball pitcher Cristi Ecks was in a jovial mood as the Board of Trustees met in the ballroom of the Marshall Center on Thursday.
Handshakes and smiles were exchanged as the BOT voted on tuition increases and long-time USF supporters Carol and Frank Morsani donated $10 million toward projects for the College of Medicine and USF athletics.
While choosing not to increase the tuition for non-resident graduate and undergraduate students, the BOT voted on a 3 percent tuition hike for undergraduate residents, which was the maximum allowable increase mandated by the Legislature. The BOT also voted on a 3 percent increase in the tuition of in-state graduate students.
“The BOT could have said, ‘Go 1 percent or 2 percent,'” said Provost Renu Khator, who noted that in the past few years, the Legislature has not adequately funded the university and that has forced the BOT to raise tuition rates.
“You need to then figure out what it would take you – minimally – to be able to offer the quality of education and we felt this was the raise we need to have,” Khator said.
After the tuition increases were settled, the recipients of the Morsanis’ gift were announced.
Of the $10 million, $7 million was appropriated to the creation of the College of Medicine’s Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care.
The Morsani Center will be a facility that Stephen Klasko, dean of the College of Medicine, hopes will improve the medical school’s reputation.
“This will allow us to differentiate nationally – other things can’t do that,” Klasko said. “Right now, we’re dependent on Moffitt; we’re dependent on (Tampa General Hospital).”
According to the latest U.S. News and World Report, USF is not among the top 50 medical schools in the country. USF also does not have an on-campus hospital, which Klasko admitted forced him to be creative in finding suitable facilities.
But according to Klasko, the new facility will belong entirely to the College of Medicine, which will manage the six-story, 194,400-square foot building that will include operating rooms and outpatient facilities.
The $64-million facility will be funded by state funds, the Morsanis’ gift and a bond worth $47 million taken out by the USF Physicians Group. The state of Florida will also contribute $7 million as it matches all academic gifts made to universities.
Genshaft said it’s people like Frank Morsani that help USF grow.
“This is an enormous initiative for the health center,” Genshaft said. “We have some money from the state, but to really enlarge it to where we want it to be, it counts on lead gifts like this to make a difference.”
With the gift, Frank Morsani hoped to improve USF’s visibility.
“That puts this university on the cusp of medical change,” Frank said. “The medical school tremendously enhances the University overall so we thought that was the best place to put our money.”
The Morsanis also contributed $3 million to USF athletics which will help fund the creation of new football practice fields and a softball stadium.
Coach Jim Leavitt, who was in attendance, said he spoke with Morsani and others about the need for new practice fields closer to the athletic facility.
“We’re the lightning capital of the world and when storms come up, we still got to run through trees,” Leavitt said. “I’m so afraid that something could happen to one of these players. So this could save lives, probably.”
The two projects will be completed simultaneously according to Athletic Director Doug Woolard, who also added that there is no timetable set on the facilities, which need $3 million more to begin breaking ground. Unlike University gifts, athletic gifts are not matched by the state.
The Morsanis’ donation comes on the heels of the announcement of a $2.97-million track complex. In all, Frank Morsani has contributed over $20 million to USF, a large amount considering he is an Oklahoma State University graduate.
“We’ve been fortunate to earn the wealth we have in this community, primarily,” Frank said. “This University is so key to the development of this region – we just think we need to give back.”