Governor joins Machen in top-10 quest
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.
The University of Florida will have to match $15 million a year in funding with private money should the Legislature approve Gov. Rick Scott's proposed support of the university's mission to be a top-10 public university this year.
Scott's budget recommendation provides UF with $15 million in recurring funds for five straight years to help the university crack the top 10.
Scott touted his support for UF's top-10 aspirations during an on-campus appearance Monday morning, saying state education officials recognize UF's potential.
"They know there's a significant opportunity to make the University of Florida a top-10 school," he told the crowd at the Nanoscale Research Facility on Center Drive.
UF officials have said the money would likely go toward hiring new faculty.
The university will have to outline a plan for hitting benchmarks on the way to reaching top-10 status and get approval from the Board of Governors each year in addition to matching the $15 million.
Administrators have long cited student-faculty ratio, graduation rates, the number of business spinoffs and number of faculty in national academies among areas that could be addressed in order to propel UF into the top 10.
UF officials said they would be ready to look at different avenues for providing the non-state dollars as matching funds, adding that it is difficult to speculate specifically where the money would come from since it is so early in the budget proposal process.
UF President Bernie Machen gave high praise to Scott on Monday, calling him "the hardest-working governor I've ever been around" and one who recognizes the connection between education and economic growth.
Machen also expressed his support for funding based on performance and meeting benchmarks, which play a part in the recurring $15 million.
"The governor has made it very clear that performance counts," he said. "And we like to play in a ballgame where performance really does matter. So we do what we say we're going to do; the state is going to invest in us and help make this a top-10 university."
According to news reports, some lawmakers recently have asked why other universities can't get an investment to fuel their top-10 drives. Most notably, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, raised the question of whether the governor would support additional funding for other universities to rise in rankings. Thrasher is a graduate of Florida State University and a former chairman of the university's board of trustees.
Scott said he would be willing to work with any university focused on achieving a top-10 ranking, but he emphasized that UF is prepared to rise up now.
"Right now, I believe the University of Florida will have a plan that will work," he said.
Machen was more frank.
"It's about measurements," he said. "If the others think they can measure up to us, then they should be in the same ballgame as us."
Scott also toured the laboratories at the facility and spoke with engineers about their work in nanoscale research, which can range from medicine to communications.
Sun correspondent Clare Lennon contributed to this report. Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.