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State university leaders meeting at USF this week

Major players overseeing Florida’s 11 public universities will approve a list of prioritized funding for infrastructure and construction projects today at the USF Alumni Center in addition to discussing other matters concerning the future of academics.

“(The Board of Governors members) will approve the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) Project Priority List,” said Jeffrey Muir, assistant vice president for governmental relations at USF. “There are no new projects being proposed (for next fiscal year) because there isn’t enough money in the (state) budget to build any new buildings, but we have proposed to continue funding the construction of current buildings.”

BOG members will approve a projected total of about $318 million for fiscal year 2007. Of that, USF is requesting about $40 million.

Last year’s appropriations for all 11 universities totaled approximately $513 million. Of that appropriation, USF received $61.1 million.

The project list will be discussed at a facilities committee meeting today at 12:30 p.m. at the Alumni Center. Afterward, the BOG will approve recommendations at 2 p.m.

Muir said today’s meetings on PECO funding will be the first in preparation for the May 2007 legislative session.

According to Muir, when the BOG reviews the lists again in January and March, the amount of available funding from the state may increase.

“There should be more money later as we update the list, but it’s still not going to be enough,” Muir said. “It never is.”

On Wednesday, members of the BOG held a Research and Economic Development committee meeting.

The committee approved a system of criteria for awarding state universities with matching funds to recruit high-quality faculty through the 21st Century World Scholars and Centers for Excellence programs in accordance with House Bill 1237.

To be eligible, each university must finance at least $1 million toward a particular field in science and technology research.

According to HB 1237, “Florida needs consistent commitment and investment in order to further the state’s strategy of capitalizing on innovative research and development to build a thriving, technology-rich economy.”

The bill also includes $8 million to enhance USF’s graduate programs.

The criteria will rate each university’s recruitment proposals on seven areas, ranging from how the award could favorably impact the state’s economic future to whether an institution has adequate support facilities in each respected field of research.

USF has submitted a total of seven proposals to recruit faculty from the 21st Century World Class Scholars program at $16.6 million in the areas of biomolecular science, learning disabilities, infectious disease and biodefense. Marine science, Alzheimer’s research and molecular medicine were also included. An outside board of 11 members, some appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, will review the proposals and present their recommendations to the BOG committee Oct. 18.