Bigger Bite for Education

The Sunshine State is emitting solar flares when it comes to education. With the stroke of a pen by Gov. Rick Scott last April (and support from the Legislature) two public universities—the University of Florida and Florida State University—have been designated preeminent research universities. The Florida Board of Governors made it official on June 10.

Sponsored by Super Region State Sen. John Legg (R- Port Richey), the bill creates 12 metrics by which universities are measured, including a freshman retention rate of 90 percent, a six-year graduation rate higher than 70 percent, total research expenditures in excess of $200 million, a national ranking in the Top 100 and $500 million or more in endowments.

“I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats,” said State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan in a press release. “The higher education enhancements included in this landmark legislation will not only benefit our universities and our students, but will provide a good return on investment for all the people of Florida.”

The top-ranked public research university in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report, is the University of Florida at No. 17.  There is no doubt the Gators are chomping at Top 10 status.

The preeminence designation provides $15 million per year for the next five years, which UF President Bernie Machen has promised to match with private donations for a total of $150 million. UF also plans to create the state’s first fully online baccalaureate program, scheduled to launch in January 2014.

The Super Region’s University of South Florida and University of Central Florida are achieving great things, too. Their presidents (Drs. Judy Genshaft and John Hitt, respectively) serve on the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  along with UF’s Dr. Machen.

USF is ranked among the Top 50 research universities nationally, among the Top 25 for online education, and has received more than $400 million in research funds and received 98 patents in the last fiscal year.

UCF ranked fifth in U.S. News & World Report’s “up-and-comers” list. The publication also rated several UCF graduate programs as among the best in the nation. The highest ranking programs included the College of Education’s graduate counselor program at No. 11, the College of Optics and Photonics program at No. 13 and the special education program at No. 14.

Read more about the state’s education prowess in the next issue of FORWARD Florida.