Specialty plates earn money for USF

Any licensed Florida driver can help save the manatees, support the U.S. Marines or show his or her pride for USF — all with an unassuming license plate.

Florida drivers can give money to the university of their choice by paying extra for a specialty university license plate, and with almost 14,000 driving Bulls and an increasingly high-profile athletics program, USF’s plate is becoming more popular. According to one official, it is one of the most chosen plates in the county.

The state gives the University a slice of the revenue from these plates, which is then used for Alumni Association scholarships and internship programs.

One of these programs is a legislative internship program that offers students interested in government a chance to stay in Tallahassee for a semester.

“We make scholarships available to deserving students so that they can continue their education here at USF,” said John Harper, Alumni Association executive director. “It is our way of helping to continue to build the brand for the University.”

USF makes $25 per plate, said Dale Hoffman, director of branch operations at the Hillsborough County Department of Motor Vehicles. The department doesn’t require a certain number of university license plates to be sold to keep the design in circulation, as they do with other specialty plates, Hoffman said.

The amount per plate can change, however, depending on how many people buy the plate each year.

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, USF made more than $330,000 from plate sales — a 37 percent increase from the 2006-2007, Harper said.

There are 13,651 USF plates on the road, making them the third most popular in Hillsborough County, behind those for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of Florida.

“Obviously, with the football team doing so well, that also helps with plate sales,” Hoffman said.

USF’s plate was created on Oct. 1, 1987, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The plate was redesigned in 1997. Part of the redesigned plate includes the newer USF logo. Though USF Athletics owns the rights to the logo, it made an agreement to use the logo on the plates, Harper said.

Students have mixed feelings about the USF license plate.

“In all honesty, I think the plate is a little bit tacky,” said Yvette Harry, a freshman majoring in mass communications.

Natalie Ivis, a freshman majoring in studio art, said she would buy the USF plate.

“I like it. I think it’s a good way to represent our college,” she said.