USF seems well on its way to becoming a more prestigious university, thanks to two approvals from the Florida Board of Governors. But USF and other universities are still hungry to find other ways to finance improvements for research and education, which could potentially cost students more.
At a meeting of the Florida BOG on Thursday in Pensacola, representatives of Florida’s statewide university system approved $8 million from state funds to finance the construction of a Biomedical Center at USF. The award was part of a $30 million allotment from the state to bring Centers of Excellence to Florida schools.
According to USF Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox, the money was set aside by the Legislature last May to focus on increasing research and economic development.
According to both Wilcox and USF President Judy Genshaft, USF was ranked
No. 1 out of 32 proposals.
“USF topped everyone,” Genshaft said. “We now have received formal approval for a Center of Excellence, which is the first state Center of Excellence that USF has received.”
Wilcox said the center will be a great benefit to student researchers.
“It will certainly provide graduate and undergraduate students who are engaged in research the opportunity to work in a cutting-edge research environment with top-rated faculty and also allow them to discover how innovative research findings can be translated into commercialized opportunities and solutions for improving the health of the community,” he said. “It will include the opportunity for students to work side-by-side in labs with World Class Faculty to develop new solutions to old problems in public health.”
WORLD CLASS SCHOLARS
The BOG also approved a $1 million allotment each for USF to hire four World Class Scholars. A total of $20 million was set aside from the state for the program.
USF will also be required to match each award.
According to Wilcox, two of those four have already been selected in the field of public health. Wilcox said the University is in the middle of looking to hire someone in the field of computer engineering and marine science.
“These are established National Academy of Science researchers and engineers,” Wilcox said.
The BOG also approved an endorsement for the Legislature to enact the use of a technology fee for each university.
According to a BOG endorsement, the proposal for the fee is to be a per-credit-hour fee to remain outside of Florida Bright Futures.
Wilcox said that in the past, the Florida Student Association has refused to support the fee because they felt students would have little say in the matter and that the fee would be used to replace existing technology rather than add anything new.
This time around, FSA leaders supported the fee, Wilcox said.
According to the BOG endorsement, the cost and increase of the technology fee would be decided by a committee half comprised of students appointed by the student body president. The remaining committee members would be appointed by the university president.
The endorsement also said students would have a “major role” in determining the expenditure of any funds for the program, should it be authorized by the Legislature.
“We’re always concerned about the cost of education for students, but this time the FSA supported the tech fee, so it will benefit us greatly, because as a student, you know we need more technology in our classrooms, our libraries and student unions,” Genshaft said. “It’s expensive to have everything, but it’s also about what we want and need to have to educate students properly. I know that students are and should be a part of the decision-making.”
ACADEMIC ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
The BOG also unanimously approved a recommendation for the Legislature to approve a pilot program for the University of Florida to charge $500 a semester for the 2007-2008 academic year for incoming students to hire new faculty and advisers.
The $500 flat fee would not be covered by Florida Bright Futures or the Florida Prepaid Program.
According to Wilcox, the money would be used to hire 200-300 new faculty and advisers to help reduce large classes.
“It is important that the BOG has endorsed it now because it moves into the Legislature with full BOG and (Board of Trustees) endorsements,” Genshaft said. “The SG president of UF gave the approval of this fee, so they did get the student approval of this fee.”
Genshaft also said USF would have to wait and see how well the pilot program works to see if it was something the University would consider.
“It probably wouldn’t be $500 a semester in student fees. It would be for something our campus needs that students would agree upon,” she said. “There is a ceiling or cap on the amount of fees that can be charged to Florida Bright Futures. They do not want the Legislature to pay for this, they want the student to absorb the cost of this.
“We’ll have to see how the proposal plays out in the next sixth months or so.”