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USF's Preeminent Status Approved, 2016-17 Performance Funds Awarded

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News

UPDATED at 2:30 p.m. on 6/23 with Pres. Genshaft quote and information on how USF will use the funding.

The University of South Florida is one step closer to joining the University of Florida and Florida State University as one of the state's elite public universities - and one step closer to receiving the funding that goes with that ranking.

The State University System Board of Governors formally approved USF's "emerging preeminent" status at its meeting Thursday after a board committee gave it at tentative thumbs-up on Tuesday.

State universities reach that level by meeting six of twelve performance metrics, including national rankings, annual research expenditures and average GPA. USF met nine of those standards. 

The ultimate level of "preeminent" status is attained by meeting eleven of those metrics, which USF officials predict the school will do by 2018.

UF and FSU are the only Florida schools to reach the top level.

“Our progress toward Florida Preeminence and the investments that come along with it will feed into a virtuous cycle for other aspects of the institution – including student and faculty recruitment, community partnerships and external funding,” USF System President Judy Genshaft said. “This endeavor, while important to USF in its own right, also supports innovation and economic development in the Tampa Bay region and the State of Florida.”

The status will net USF a recurring extra $5 million in state funding. UF and FSU receive $10 million a year with their higher rankings.

Genshaft said the money would go to enhance research in heart health and medical engineering.

On Wednesday, the Board of Governors approved another set of funds for state universities - $500 million that's allotted based on school performance. USF will receive almost $71.8 million in funds for the 2016-17 school year.

The state public universities are rated on a zero-to-ten point scale on ten categories similar to the preeminence rankings.

USF ranked fourth by scoring 79 points. It will receive $32.3 million in state money, plus another $39.5 million in its own money back from the state.

Universities contribute a portion of its institutional balance to the state, with schools that score 51 points or more receiving their full funding back. This year, the fund included $275 million from the schools, $225 million from the state.

The University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University tied for first this year with 84 points each, UF was third with 82, and USF came in fourth.

It's USF's lowest finish in the four years the rankings have been released. They were tied for first in 2013-14, and second in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

USF is also receiving an additional $788,872 from the 2015-16 funding allocation. A scoring error resulted in Florida International University being awarded money it didn't earn. Those funds were split between the top three schools in last year's rankings: UF, USF and UCF.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.