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News Clips 05/10/2013
Machen, UF trustees pleased with legislative support
Source: Gainesville Sun, 05/09/13
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By Jeff Schweers
University of Florida President Bernie Machen told the Faculty Senate on Thursday that he was pleased with the results of the legislative session, which ended a week ago with UF getting the legislative backing and financial support to pursue Top 10 status.
Machen also said the session resulted in the restoration of funding for higher education, pay raises and benefits, and it produced money to help pay for deferred construction and maintenance projects — including $15 million toward construction of a chemistry building.
"We stemmed the tide and made real progress with the pre-eminence bill," Machen said Thursday at the end of a presentation on the session. "We are moving as fast as we can be moving. This is a good circumstance for the university, compared to the last several years."
The Legislature passed a bill, signed by Gov. Rick Scott, that gives UF pre-eminence status and allows it to create an online university. Along with it comes $75 million over the next five years to pursue its longtime goal of becoming a Top 10 university — an amount that Board of Trustees Chairman C. David Brown II said would be matched from private fundraising.
"We are confident that UF's ascent in the rankings of America's top institutions will provide significant benefits not only in our classrooms and research laboratories, but also to the state and across our great nation," Brown said.
Brown said the $150 million would help UF in two ways: "by reducing class sizes, which improves our student-faculty ratio, and by augmenting the university's research and technology transfer capabilities."
The legislation also gives UF the green light to create an online university, scheduled for a launch in January 2014. With that effort comes a $15 million appropriation the first year and $5 million every year thereafter.
Environmental engineering professor Paul Chadik asked whether such online classes would be unlimited in size or would still give faculty the power to limit size to a manageable number.
Machen said instructors, with their deans, would decide the size of the classroom. Online classes would offer the same academic rigor and quality as the residential classes, officials have said.
"We are not going to do this amuck," Machen said. "The same teachers will do this who teach our residential classes."
Also in the budget is $15 million toward the construction of a $60 million chemistry building, both Machen and Brown noted.
"It will replace the existing building, which was constructed in 1947 and can no longer accommodate the number of students taking this important science class," Brown said.
Once again, Brown said, the chemistry building will get an additional $15 million from private donations.
The budget also has $11.6 million to help pay for the $75 million addition and renovation to the Reitz Union, and $16.7 million for "critical deferred maintenance," Machen said.
It also allows for a 3 percent tuition rate increase, pay raises for all state employees and merit bonuses, Machen said.
While all the above are budget items that the governor and Legislature have agreed upon, other items in the budget are still subject to the governor's veto, including:
$1.85 million for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
$3.6 million for the College of Medicine, primarily in core residencies.
$2.5 million for the College of Education, of which $2 million would be used to launch a pilot program helping algebra students learn online.
Other line items of interest include $3.3 million for the Shands Cancer Hospital, $7.05 million in cancer research to be split between Shands, Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the cancer center in Miami, and $1.25 million for Alzheimer's research.
There also is $2 million for the high-tech corridor and $2.2 million to help UF maintain historic buildings in St. Augustine.
Machen said he was confident that the university will get the basic budget outlined and supported by Gov. Scott and the Legislature.
"I doubt the basic budget that comes to us is not coming," Machen said.