New bill could ease USF closer to pre-eminent status

USF received the title of emerging pre-eminent June 21. This includes an increase of $5 million in state funding that the university gets annually for research. Special to the Oracle/WUSF

A bill currently making its way through the Florida Legislature would change one of the benchmarks for pre-eminence and would put USF one step closer to achieving the status. 

The “Florida Excellence in High Education Act of 2017” looks at changing a benchmark, which could change from six-year graduation rates at 70 percent to now require a four-year graduation rate at 50 percent. 

This is one of two benchmarks USF is striving to reach in order to move from emerging pre-eminence to pre-eminence — a status held only by UF and FSU. 

Universities designated as pre-eminent split $20 million from the state in 2016, while those that met emerging pre-eminence, USF’s current designation, split half that for research.

According to a letter written by Paul Dosal, vice provost for Student Success, in May 2016, the university had a four-year graduation rate of 51 percent. If this law passes, the university would likely be able to check off that benchmark.

The law also looks at changing the amount of money that universities designated as emerging pre-eminent receives from half of the amount to a fourth. 

USF’s goal has been to reach pre-eminent status by 2018.

The other benchmark the university is focused on is freshmen retention rates. For the 2014-15 school year, USF had an 88 percent freshmen retention rate, according to the 2016 Work Plan. The benchmark set by the state is 90 percent, which USF hoped to reach in the 2015-16 school year. The university was just under its goal at 89.7 percent. 

The bill, written by Sen. Bill Galvano (R) of District 21 — part of Hillsborough county — passed unanimously by the Education committee and is set to be reviewed by the Appropriations committee at the end of the month.