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Trustees discuss soliciting more alumni donations

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Posted: Monday, September 8, 2008 12:00 am

With future budget cuts looming for UF and the state alike, members of UF's Board of Trustees were urged by a representative from the governor's office Friday to set an example by donating money to the university.

The board's quarterly meeting ended with a discussion of how to bring in more money to UF's strained budget and a few announcements.

Dean C. Colson, Gov. Charlie Crist's special adviser for higher education, said the trustees should be contributing large donations to the university.

If UF wants to overcome its budget woes, it has to start working its alumni network like a business pro, such as the University of Virginia or the University of Michigan, Colson said.

"You all are the most entrepreneurial of all the universities in Florida," he said. "Everybody has to do a better job at fundraising."

Colson encouraged UF to step up its alumni fundraising efforts, a goal mentioned throughout the meetings by UF administrators and the trustees.

"People give to winners, and you all are winners," Colson said. "You've got a national championship of everything."

Colson said raising tuition would logically be the go-to solution for the state's universities, but it is often unpopular because many see it as a tax increase.

UF will have to look past state funding for a monetary solution, Colson said.

"We're going to be state assisted, not state funded," he said.

Alfred C. Warrington IV, a trustee and chairman of the board's Finance and Facilities Committee, said UF's low tuition is a large part of the problem.

UF's average in-state tuition for incoming freshmen is $3,790, according to UF Student Financial Affairs' Web site.

Sheila M. McDevitt, chairwoman of the Board of Governors - the State University System's highest governing body - said the average tuition for a Florida public university is $3,500 while the average cost of preschool in the state is $5,900.

"We've got to take the wraps off and operate this place like a business and not like a candy store," Warrington said.

UF President Bernie Machen, along with several others at the meeting, reiterated his hopes that the state will allocate some of its rainy-day funds to its universities.

However, he said if this "dadgum hurricane season" continues to be a busy one, those funds might be allocated to hurricane relief instead.

Aside from the budget discussion, the board approved a student-proposed renewable energy fee, which would charge students 50 cents per credit hour.

Warrington also warned about UF's climbing utility bill for this year. He said he is anticipating a $10 million shortfall, which he said he hopes to offset by using state funds.

During his report to the board, President Machen announced the retirement of Paul Robell, UF's vice president for development and alumni affairs.

Robell has led the Florida Tomorrow Campaign and will remain involved through a four-year transition, after which his replacement will fully take the reins, Machen said.

He has been with UF more than 21 years and has served as vice president for the last 13 years, Machen said.

A search for Robell's replacement will begin this year, Machen said.

Welcome to the discussion.