UF officials cautious, but encouraged by Scott's budget
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.
University of Florida officials are hopeful that Gov. Rick Scott's higher education-friendly budget recommendation will carry weight as lawmakers prepare for the legislative session this spring.
Scott's proposed budget provides UF with $15 million specifically earmarked to help the university crack the top 10 in national rankings of public universities.
UF's top brass have said the money would mainly be directed toward recruiting distinguished new faculty members, which Provost Joe Glover said would help UF lower its faculty-student ratio and increase its prestige — both key metrics in the hunt for top 10 status.
"The $15 million is a significant investment in the University of Florida," Glover said.
Like the rest of Scott's recommendations, the $15 million for UF has to win the approval of the Legislature before seeing daylight. If UF gets the extra funding, Glover said administrators would likely look at needs across the university as part of the recruiting and hiring process for new faculty.
"We would have a conversation with deans and other administrators at the university," he said.
Glover said he envisions bringing in 100 to 125 new faculty — a mix of assistant, associate and full professors.
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said some university employees had concerns about any possible new money being used only for hiring new faculty and not for giving raises to current employees.
Should the money come in, Sikes said, the university has not ruled out addressing existing salaries.
"It's my understanding that if there were additional money, that certainly would be considered," she said. "We're very early in the process of the budget."
Cheri Brodeur, UF trustee and president of the faculty senate, also emphasized how early it is in the process. She said with budget proposals coming out of both chambers of the Legislature, a lot could change by the end of the legislative session.
"Basically, it's a wish list," she said.
Florida's House and Senate convene on March 5 in Tallahassee for this year's legislative session.
Brodeur added that as state officials hash out budgets and continue to emphasize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math fields, she hopes that the support doesn't come at the expense of areas in the liberal arts and other non-STEM fields.
"I'm always concerned about the idea of STEM and the funding of STEM and what happens to the other faculty on campus," she said.
Scott's proposal includes $100 million in new funding for the construction and renovation of STEM facilities.
TJ Villamil, UF's student body president, said he was concerned with Scott's recommendation to hold off on bonding money for construction projects funded through students fees, as it would affect the completion of the renovation and expansion of the Reitz Union.
The budget currently calls for use of $70 million available in cash from the Capital Investment Trust Fund, which pays for student life facilities at state universities, and recommends against bonding new projects.
Villamil said he thinks students can make a compelling case to the Legislature for the bonds, saying that supporting student life goes hand in hand with supporting academics.
"It has to be complemented with a great student experience," he said.
Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or email@example.com.