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Sunday, May 16, 2021

I know, I know - UF President Bernie Machen has made resolving UF's debt problem his calling card. But despite a cost-cutting task force, a hiring freeze and a tuition plan without immediate short-term benefits, one solution to the problem has not been addressed.

As UF students, faculty and staff, we are not powerless in the fight to build upon our excellence in spite of limited resources. We can no longer use ignorance or irresponsibility as an excuse in the never-ending quest to become the institution that best provides an affordable, top-notch education for Florida residents.

But in the meantime, what can you do to help UF become a better place?

Realize that full resolution is still a ways away. UF did not accumulate debt overnight, and it won't resolve its debt overnight. However, the following small steps can add up to promote real change.

Make every effort to graduate in four years. In a college that graduates less than half its students on time, even a small spike in four-year percentages can help. Students who deliberately delay graduation not only hurt themselves by foregoing the higher starting salary a degree provides - They also hurt deserving future students who find a potentially empty seat occupied. Remember, earlier graduates were nice enough to leave you a seat.

Buy more goods and services from Gainesville and the Alachua County area. More profits mean more money for the county and consequently more benefits from more sales taxes.

Consider donating money to UF after you graduate. Even though big-money athletic boosters get the most press, any gift amount can help the Gators academically or athletically. Plus, donations are often tax-deductible and can be matched by the state many times over.

Join Student Government and campaign for finance reform. If you are willing to sacrifice time and money for the privilege of being involved in shaping university policy and expressing heartfelt opinions on what's best for the school, this is for you. Plus, if you are a fraternity or sorority member, you have the advantage of a student network and possibly campaign funds.

Send a petition to Gov. Charlie Crist asking for help beyond the Tuition Differential Plan. Rest assured, even Machen had to ask for permission before raising tuition.

Push for legislation supporting better pay and insurance for professors and teaching assistants. If instructors are not given financial incentives for good work, they are substantially less motivated to do a good job for the school.

Encourage friends and colleagues to read this article and implement some of the suggestions. One person doing it alone has a hard time, but a group of people working for a mission have a bigger voice and more ideas.

The bar of excellence for UF hasn't been lowered. If anything, three national championships in two years, record-setting research funds and higher-quality students have raised expectations for UF. We have a golden opportunity, but we must step up to the challenge.

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Vincent Gagliano is a sophomore majoring in physics.

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