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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

UF’s Board of Trustees discussed strategies for becoming a Top 10 university during a retreat at Lake Wauburg on Thursday but did not decide on a game plan.

James Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, presented his view of the future of the American public research university.

Sixty-five to 70 percent of research done in the United States happens at public research universities, Duderstadt said. However, states are no longer able or willing to provide financial support for the sustained growth they hope to see in the public university system.

Public universities have also been hampered by the changing relationship between higher education and government, he said. Another issue is competition among universities for the best students, faculty, research grants and athletic facilities, among other things.

“This is a very aggressive competitive environment in which the winner takes all,” Duderstadt said of the higher education atmosphere.

One solution he suggested for keeping poorer institutions from falling prey to richer ones is resource-sharing.

Some of the strategies Duderstadt pitched, including seeking alternative funding for research, are already in the works at UF.

A big part of Thursday’s discussion focused on how to launch UF into the Top 10 universities in the U.S. with a declining budget.

Earlier this month, the Florida Legislature laid out a budget plan that cut $36.5 million from UF.

“It’s very clear that we’re not going to be able to use new revenues to do business as usual,” UF President Bernie Machen said.

A bill that would allow UF to charge market-rate tuition, awaiting the governor’s approval, was meant to alleviate some of the budget deficit.

Some trustees argued UF wouldn’t get enough money fast enough to make a significant impact.

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From a student’s perspective, said Student Body President Anthony Reynolds, Top-10 status isn’t a priority.

“Students coming in are concerned about what they’re paying,” he said.

It’s not until after they graduate that most students become concerned with the reputation of their alma maters.

Reynolds also cautioned the trustees not to overlook the fact that there is a portion of students who would struggle financially at the expense of building up other programs.

The Board of Trustees will meet again today to discuss undergraduate STEM education and future plans for alternative funding.

Contact Erin Jester at ejester@alligator.org. Contact Julia Glum at jglum@alligator.org.

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