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USF Calls the Tampa Bay Region to Action After Last-Minute Legislative Change to Preeminence Threatens to Take Millions of Dollars Away

Change would shift funding intended for USF directly to UF and FSU, hurting Tampa Bay.

TAMPA, Fla. (May 6, 2017) – The University of South Florida is calling on the entire Tampa Bay area to take action after a last-minute change by the Florida Legislature threatens to take more than $10 million away from USF, a significant setback to the region’s future. The move by legislators would hurt USF’s ability to recruit top students, hire and retain high-quality faculty members including those for USF Health’s new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa and will impact other USF colleges.

USF is asking all community members and business leaders, as well as USF alumni, students, faculty, and other supporters of the university, to immediately contact the state legislators who represent the Tampa Bay region and call on them to correct this issue when they return to Tallahassee on Sunday for the end of this year’s legislative session.

USF has made great strides in raising the academic bar for Tampa Bay and set a clearly-established goal to achieve Preeminence status in Florida, a designation state universities can earn by meeting at least 11 of 12 benchmarks established by the Legislature.

USF’s achievements are well-documented:

Since January, the Florida Senate has publicly proposed a change to their preeminence program that would have allowed USF to earn the designation this year. The change proposed in a bill for several months would have altered the required benchmark from a 6-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent to a 4-year graduation rate of at least 50 percent. USF’s 4-year graduation rate is currently 54 percent. The State University System Board of Governors has published a strategic plan for all Florida public universities to achieve a 50 percent 4-year graduation rate by 2025, but has certified that USF already meets this Preeminence criteria.

However, late on Friday afternoon, in the final moments of this year’s legislative session, leadership in the legislature made a change to move the benchmark to a 4-year graduation rate of 60 percent, even though leaders had previously agreed to a graduation rate of 50 percent. This change only adversely impacts USF and the Tampa Bay region.

The change is significant as this year’s state budget provides $48 million to be split among Preeminent universities. Should USF join the University of Florida and Florida State University as the state’s only Preeminent universities, each would receive $16 million. This at-the-wire change now means UF and FSU will split much more money by redirecting it away from USF.

“It is important that our state leaders fully understand the effects of arbitrary changes to our Preeminence goals and metrics,” said USF Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb. “Shifting the goal posts at the endgame impacts the resources and facilities of USF’s students, our ability to attract the best and brightest to our university and city, the success of the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, and the economic growth and competitiveness of our region.”

The university’s supporters should be concerned the legislature may continue to move the benchmarks in future years to ensure UF and FSU remain the state’s only Preeminent universities, putting USF and the other nine state universities at a significant disadvantage.

With this year’s legislative session scheduled to end on Monday, it’s critical for supporters of USF and the Tampa Bay region to contact local legislators immediately to ask them to change the Preeminence bill to include the University of South Florida.

More details on this issue can be found here:

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