Scott signs new budget, USF prospers
Approving a budget that includes several multimillion-dollar projects for USF, Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2014-15 state budget Monday, marking significant gains for higher education.
Among other projects, next year’s budget will include $5 million in recurring funds for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF, $15 million for the construction of the USF Health Heart Institute, $10 million for the construction of the USF St. Pete College of Business and $5 million to replace the outdated facilities of the Morsani College of Medicine.
USF Assistant Vice President for Government Relations Mark Walsh said the university is grateful for the approved budget, as it includes all the projects requested at the start of the legislative session.
“Previously, the economy caused cuts to all government funding across the board,” Walsh said. “…We sustained some cuts in the past few years, but over the past two years (legislators) restored our budget and then some… This is the highest amount we’ve ever had.”
In the past, such as in 2012, Scott approved a budget that reduced funding to the State University System by $300 million. Now, the $77 billion budget includes the highest amount for higher education since the recession, Walsh said.
According to Walsh, USF could potentially receive the most funding in the state as the approved budget includes $200 million granted to the State University System through the Board of Governor’s Performance Funding Model, which rewards universities on metrics such as graduation and retention rates.
USF tied with UCF in receiving the most performance funding in the state last year, earning $2.6 million on a list of three metrics, out-performing schools such as the University of Florida and Florida State.
The new budget will also allocate $1.4 million in recurring funds to USF Sarasota-Manatee’s STEM programs, a more than 10 percent increase from last year’s state funding for the campus, as well as $1.25 million to both the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the Florida Institute of Oceanography at the USF College of Marine Science.
Additionally, the governor and Legislature passed bills to allow in-state tuition for veterans, regardless of how long they have been in Florida, and students who are undocumented immigrants, as long as they previously attended a state high school for at least three years.
— Staff report