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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

In a year of shrinking state funds, UF President Bernie Machen is pleased to see two numbers stay the same: 49 and 17.

UF remains No. 49 of top national universities and No. 17 for top public universities in U.S. News & World Report's 2009 America's Best Colleges lists.

UF was ranked No. 13 in the 2007 list of top public universities but dropped four spots in the 2008 edition.

Machen's long-touted goal of making UF a top 10 public university seemed less plausible this year with more than $47 million cut from this year's budget, which forced about 70 faculty and staff layoffs.

"Some people around here were talking that way…" Machen said in a telephone interview. "But I knew we had gotten better in some things, so I wasn't that worried that we'd go down."

Enter Forbes…

This year there's a new number to look at.

Earlier this month, Forbes.com ranked UF No. 167 among all undergraduate schools and No. 16 for top public universities in the magazine's first-ever list of America's Best Colleges. Machen said it would be a few years before the rankings on the Forbes list seemed right.

He said there is "something wacko" if University of Michigan is ranked No. 20 on the U.S News list for top national universities, but ranked a few spots above UF at No. 161 by Forbes.

He said UF should have moved up from its No. 17 spot on the U.S. News list, but the group's ranking system adds weight to faculty resources - an area "where we're weak."

In July, Machen announced the first raise in two years for faculty and staff to help employees deal with higher costs of living. The $11 million plan, which goes into effect Sept. 19, will award merit-based raises to some of UF's 5,400 faculty members and an across-the-board 2 percent or $600 raise - whichever is more - to more than 8,300 staff members.

Ways to improve faculty resources and class sizes next year would be decided when that time arrives, he said.

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"I think we're in for another year or two of difficult times in the state," Machen said.

In order to join the ranks of the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Virginia, No.1 and No. 2 on the public universities rankings, Machen said UF needs the Florida Legislature to give him what UF needs most: more money.

Until that happens, Machen said the dream won't die because the Board of Trustees, UF's highest governing body, has clearly set cracking the top 10 as a goal.

"We pay attention to rankings," Machen said, "because parents and students do, and it really is a form of measurement."

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