Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $20 million in appropriation funds for a new STEM facility at the Sarasota-Manatee Campus on June 15, according to a June 16 article from The Oracle.
The decision to veto the money was the wrong choice, as less STEM degree-seeking students may decide to attend USF. Alternative means of funding will most likely be needed to make up for DeSantis’ veto.
Discussions surrounding the finalization of the facility began in April, but the exact date for when the planning committee could begin breaking ground was dependent on the funds, according to a May 25 article from The Oracle. The goal for the building’s budget is reportedly $61.7 million, with $5 million having already been secured from the federal state and government. The rest of the money would be raised through other means such as donations and fundraisers.
The intent behind the building was to “allow for the expansion of degree offerings in the STEM and nursing fields across USF,” according to a May 3 article from USF Newsroom.
Between 2020-21, almost 800,000 STEM degrees and certificates were awarded in the U.S., according to a June 2 study from Statista. This number is a large jump from 15 years prior, where the number of degrees and certificates within STEM fields being awarded in the country was under 500,000.
The state of Florida is home to schools that are heavily dedicated to STEM programs, such as the Florida Polytechnic University. More than 200 students from their recent school year received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to a May 7 article.
USF has also recently been taking swings when it comes to promoting STEM programs towards its younger students. Last year, USF became the first Florida institution to host a chapter of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Schools Program, a program that was designed to help women and minority students be successful in STEM fields, according to a 2022 blog post from USF.
It’s for this reason that DeSantis’ decision to veto the appropriation funds reflects very poorly on his part. Providing more money to the facility would be very beneficial to the rising number of students in the country who are interested in the field, as it would give them easier access to future career opportunities that they would want to seek out and make them more likely to attend USF.
The $20 million in appropriation funds could’ve made the process of building the STEM facility a lot easier. Now that these funds are off the table, those donations and campaign events are more essential than ever in getting proper funding for the facility.
Hopes for raising money are not off the table just yet. Regional Chancellor of the Sarasota-Manatee campus Karen Holbrook suggested the university still plans to push for the opening of this facility.
“This is only a temporary setback in our continued campaign to grow and transform our campus for its students, faculty members and staff, and for the entire community,” Holbrook said in a June 16 statement.
While the building is still currently in the works, construction could potentially be halted in order for more money to come through. This is a problem that could have easily been solved if the funding had been approved.