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University Money Could Help Draw Top Researchers

Mar 14, 2018

Florida universities will share $151 million in funding next academic year that will allow them to recruit top-level researchers and improve professional and graduate schools.

The Legislature, in a budget passed Sunday, increased funding for the World Class Faculty and Scholar Program by $20 million to a total of $91 million and the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program by $10 million to a total of $60 million.

At the same time, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation (SB 4) that will make the world-class faculty and professional-degree programs a permanent part of the funding formula for the 12 state universities.

Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who made the “Excellence in Higher Education Act” one of his priorities, said codifying the new programs and other provisions in the law, including using four-year graduation rates to measure university performance, give “the universities tools they need to better serve students and increase their accountability.”

“I believe Florida taxpayers will see a return worthy of their investment as more Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on-time and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities,” Negron said in a statement when Scott signed the bill on Sunday.

Funding in the world-class faculty program is targeted toward the recruitment and retention of top professors and researchers, including making “cluster hires” of key research groups. The money can also be used to increase the commercialization of university research, support undergraduate research and pay for postdoctoral fellowships.

Under the law, universities must report annually on their use of the funding and its results.

The $20 million increase in the program will boost funding at each school, ranging from $3.45 million at the University of Florida to $201,000 at Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school.

With the increase, funding for the schools is expected to total: UF, $16.8 million; Florida State University, $15 million; the University of Central Florida, $14.6 million; the University of South Florida, $13.45 million; Florida International University, $9.3 million; Florida Atlantic University, $5.7 million; the University of North Florida, $4.1 million; Florida Gulf Coast University, $3.2 million; New College of Florida, $2.7 million; Florida A&M University, $2.6 million; the University of West Florida, $2.6 million; and Florida Polytechnic, $860,000.

The professional degree program is aimed at boosting the quality of Florida’s medical, law and graduate business schools. The money can be used to hire faculty, recruit students, increase research and “other strategic endeavors to elevate the national and global prominence” of the schools.

The schools must also report on the use of the funds and the outcomes annually.

The $10 million increase in the professional degree program will boost funding for the schools next year, ranging from $2.8 million at UF to $125,000 at the University of West Florida. Florida Polytechnic and New College, which have limited graduate offerings, do not participate in the program.

With the increase, funding for the schools is expected to total: UF, $16.7 million; Florida State, $11.3 million; Florida International, $10.9 million; the University of South Florida, $6.9 million; the University of Central Florida, $5.2 million; Florida Atlantic, $2.7 million; Florida A&M, $2.3 million; the University of North Florida, $1.8 million; Florida Gulf Coast, $1.6 million; and the University of West Florida, $750,000.