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Sunday, June 04, 2023
<p>President Bernie Machen discussed his strategic plan for UF during the Board of Trustees meeting Friday.&nbsp;</p>

President Bernie Machen discussed his strategic plan for UF during the Board of Trustees meeting Friday. 

Asserting financial independence was a major theme of President Bernie Machen's strategic discussion at UF's Board of Trustees meeting Friday.

UF is entering a critical period, Machen said. State funding has decreased, putting the university at a crossroads.

In particular, he said, the model for Public Education Capital Outlay funds, or PECO funds, once a primary source of state funding, is broken and is unlikely to return to where it once was.

To balance this, Trustee Al Warrington said UF needs a strategic plan that uses less state and federal funding and includes higher fees and tuition.

"We were in la-la land for a long time," he said. "The state has done well for us."

Now, Warrington said, UF needs to control its own destiny, not simply react to the times.

Although it would be easier to take 25 percent of UF's students from out of state, Machen said, he is committed to accepting Floridians and will not replace them to balance the budget.

"We are doing the things that we said we would do," he said. "We are, as far as I know, the only selective university in the country that takes 95 percent of its undergraduates from the state."

It doesn't help that the state legislature treats all 11 of its public universities the same.

New College of Florida and UF, for example, have very different needs, Machen said.

"It may be efficient at their end, but it's not efficient at ours," he said.

New College has no graduate school and enrolls 800 to 850 students each year, while UF enrolls about 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

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There is not yet a definitive list of things UF will have to do to differentiate itself from other schools in the state university system.

Administrators will discuss those factors with the legislature next month.

Machen stressed that in 10 years, he didn't want to see this year as the point where UF lost its way.

Instead, he said, the university should focus on collaboration among disciplines and entrepreneurship.

To that effect, on Thursday the board approved a collaboration between UF and Full Sail University in two areas: media and entertainment, and business and technology.

Pending approval from the Board of Governors, the state university system's highest governing body, UF and Full Sail will create a resource-sharing program to enhance degree programs at both schools.

Because UF and Full Sail have different levels of accreditation, UF Provost Joe Glover said, ironing out the details of the program will take some time.

UF Trustee Alan Levine said the collaboration with Full Sail is a prime example of how UF can assert its independence.

Rather than using public resources to create new programs, UF and Full Sail will both benefit without using any state money.

To maintain consistent leadership during these changes, Chairman Carlos Alfonso requested an extension of one year to Machen's contract, which the Board of Trustees approved.

"This was an easy decision on our part," Machen said. "Being able to see some of these things through next year makes me feel better."

President Bernie Machen discussed his strategic plan for UF during the Board of Trustees meeting Friday. 

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