As the state starves public university budgets, Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio plan to fatten up institutions outside of the State University System.
Next year, the SUS’s 11 universities stand to collectively lose about $150 million. At the same time, two outside universities will collect an extra $140 million in taxpayer money.
Crist writes off these payouts to non-SUS schools because the money comes from the Innovation Incentive Fund, a program created by former Gov. Jeb Bush to attract tech companies to Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Although these agreements will generate more jobs within the state, Florida boasts three Research I institutions – USF being one of them – which should be given priority in consideration when it comes to funding innovative projects to benefit the state.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the University of Miami, Rubio’s alma mater, will receive $80 million to build a genomics institute. Additionally, Crist and Rubio granted $60 million to Oregon Health & Science University to develop a research unit in Port St. Lucie. Port St. Lucie happens to be in the district of Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt. According to the Times, Rubio and Crist consulted Pruitt before reaching this decision. While universities tied to Rubio and Pruitt’s interests benefit, the Tampa Tribune reported Jan. 18 that USF’s budget will shrink by $52 million over the next two years to combat the state’s budget deficit. As might be expected, members of the Board of Governors, which oversees SUS schools, weren’t pleased with these announcements.
“We’re going through these very critical decisions – painful decisions – in our public universities, and money is being given to out-of-state institutions,” BOG chairwoman Carolyn Roberts told the Sentinel. “All research is valuable and important, but we are at a critical point in our university system.”
During the past week, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Ralph Wilcox said he’s been receiving recommendations from the deans of every college in the University of where to cut money within their departments, and has had to decide how faculty and staff positions would be affected by the budget cuts.
Though Wilcox said he doesn’t plan to cut current faculty positions, the lure of new research opportunities could attract professors to other institutions, causing an even greater drain on the quality of education at the University.
If the state wants to generate innovation, it should invest in opportunities that will retain tomorrow’s leaders who are already studying here, and especially in universities that don’t benefit from costly tuition.