USF leaders thank state legislators for historic support in this year’s session

he University of South Florida community is celebrating a historically successful legislative session by thanking the state legislators who have proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for USF across all three campuses and USF Health.

“We owe deep gratitude to our legislative leaders, especially USF alum and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls, Senate President Wilton Simpson and the entire Tampa Bay Legislative Delegation for their recognition of USF’s immense value to our community, to our state and to the world. The investments proposed for USF will help us continue our tremendous momentum and have a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region for generations to come,” USF President Rhea Law said. “I am also deeply grateful to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters for all that they do to positively impact our community and our state, making USF such a compelling investment for the future.”

As of March 10, the state budget for 2022-23 includes historic funding for higher education institutions and for USF. On March 14, the Legislature will vote on these and other funding initiatives in the state budget. At some point in the days and weeks to follow, the Legislature will transmit the budget to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his review and approval or line-item veto on any individual spending item in the budget.

A brief summary of the state’s proposed investments, agreed upon by the Legislature in its budget negotiations over the past week:

USF’S OPERATING BUDGET PRIORITIES

  • A $55 million recurring increase to USF’s operational budget, including new funds for all three campuses and USF Health. This investment will help USF continue a trajectory toward its strategic goals, including investing in student and faculty success, building the research profile, making a greater impact on the community and ultimately its quest toward becoming a Top-25 public university. This is the largest single-year investment in operational support that USF has received in its history.
  • In addition to that incredible new recurring funding for USF’s base operating funds, the following important initiatives were also funded by the Legislature:
    • $20.5 million for cybersecurity workforce development, research and simulation activities at USF.
    • $37 million to Cyber Florida at USF to conduct a cybersecurity vulnerability assessment for the state, develop recommendations for improvement, and oversee training of state and local government employees against cyber intrusions.
    • $7 million to expand nursing programs at USF to address statewide nursing shortages.
    • $5 million to operate the Florida Center for Nursing at USF’s College of Nursing, a center dedicated to growing the state’s nursing workforce.
    • $5.5 million to fund the operations of the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation at the USF College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.
    • $500,000 to study the effectiveness of hyperbaric chamber therapy in veterans suffering with PTSD.
    • $306,176 to fully fund the operations of the St. Petersburg campus’ Citizen Scholars Partnership program.

USF’S FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE PRIORITIES

  • $75 million to fully fund the state share of the construction cost of the new Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching facility at the USF St. Petersburg campus. This investment will position St. Petersburg as a world-class center of marine and environmental science, education and community engagement and elevate USF’s stature as a Preeminent State Research University.
  • $33 million to remodel critical USF Health facilities to add capacity for more nursing students and add state-of-the-art new simulation equipment.
  • $3 million to plan for construction of the new Nursing/STEM Building at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, the campus’ first new state-funded facility in over 15 years.
  •  $6.3 million to invest in campus life facility projects across USF’s three campuses, funded by the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF).
  • $72.8 million to invest in the maintenance and repair of existing USF facilities across the three campuses.

“This is a historic moment for USF and for Tampa Bay. Under the leadership of House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, the Legislature is making record investments in our community and in higher education statewide. As a former member of the Legislature myself, I know how difficult it can be to make decisions about precious state dollars with many competing and compelling priorities. With these new investments, our state leaders have chosen to build for the future – helping us create a talent and innovation pipeline that will serve generations of Floridians to come,” USF Board of Trustees Chair Will Weatherford said.  “I especially want to thank Speaker Sprowls, a University of South Florida alum, for his vision in recognizing the immeasurable value USF brings to our community. Tampa Bay is in a better place because of his leadership.”

EOS building

The $75 million to support the new Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching facility at the St. Petersburg campus advances USF’s plan for an interdisciplinary center of excellence.  It will build on the world-class reputation of the College of Marine Science to harness the collective power of colleges and departments from throughout the university to address the existential challenges created by climate change, including sea level rise, high tide flooding events and other coastal hazards.  The project has received significant community support from organizations throughout St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

“Think about the opportunities this will create for students pursuing careers in this evolving field, as well as for businesses looking to build a talent pipeline,” USF St. Petersburg campus Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock said. “Think about the benefit to the community, as we enhance our ability to analyze sea level rise and high-tide flood events, and to make that information accessible to policymakers, planners, elected officials and the general public. This historic investment will be paying dividends for years to come.”

The funds to support a new nursing/STEM building on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus will help alleviate a nursing shortage in the region; provide critical space for teaching and research labs; serve as a much-needed additional facility for students in high-demand fields such as biology, chemistry and pre-health; and allow new majors to be added in engineering and other emerging technologies.

“The USF Sarasota-Manatee campus is particularly grateful to the Legislature for recognizing the desperate need for well-trained nurses and investing in the future STEM workforce.  We are committed to developing and growing programs that directly impact the continued success and attractiveness of the region – for students, families, companies and the Florida economy,” said Karen A. Holbrook, USF Sarasota-Manatee campus regional chancellor.

The funds for USF Health will help advance key aspects of its mission.

“This momentous investment in the University of South Florida could not have come at a better time, as USF continues to gain momentum as one of the state’s and nation’s premier research institutions. We are grateful to our transformational university leaders, and for the state legislature’s strong support,” said Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.  “USF Health will use their portion of these funds to greatly expand USF’s nursing program to address the state’s acute nursing workforce shortage, and to support our world-class USF Health research, educational and clinical programs, which enhance the economic well-being of our region and the personal health of all Floridians.”

Other business and community leaders from throughout the Tampa Bay region also shared their thoughts on the state’s investments in USF:

Jeff Vinik, Owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning: “USF and its leaders are exceeding expectations, building a growing pipeline of top talent that is helping organizations locally and nationally fill open positions with very well-prepared young people. New investments made in USF will help an institution already on an incredible trajectory support our state’s economic growth even further. Thank you to our state leaders for your recommendation to elevate this preeminent institution.”

Brian Murphy, CEO of ReliaQuest: “We have a saying at ReliaQuest – security is a team sport. That means it takes all of us, from business and industry to higher education and government, to find solutions to the ever-evolving cybersecurity challenges. We are grateful to our state leaders and our partners at USF for recognizing the opportunities and investing in Florida’s cybersecurity talent pipeline.”

Andy Zolper, Chief Information Security Officer and Senior Vice President, Raymond James: “Producing more graduates at USF who are prepared on day 1 to join the cybersecurity workforce will have a tremendous impact on the Tampa Bay region and state of Florida.  We are grateful to our state leaders for investing in our state’s cybersecurity through USF and Cyber Florida.”

Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership: “This will be a game changer, not just for USF and our Innovation District, but for the way we think about managing rising oceans and flooding and severe weather in coastal communities. Research from this facility will help shape the insurance industry, environmental engineering, zoning and real estate development decisions. It will make our cities more resilient and connect the many different marine science elements that are already part of this campus.”

Ed Montanari, St. Petersburg City Council Member: “The legislative investment in the Center of Excellence will strengthen USF St. Petersburg campus’ ability to reach its full potential and catapult the region’s expertise nationally and globally in the environmental and oceanographic sciences.”

Gina Driscoll, St. Petersburg City Council Chair: “The St. Petersburg community stands ready to do our part to make USF the Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences supported by the Florida Legislature a reality.”

Trevor Burgess, CEO of Neptune Flood: “This smart investment would pay enormous dividends for Tampa Bay and all of Florida, and we appreciate House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ support of this forward-looking project. It’s a remarkable opportunity to launch new interdisciplinary programs and create a national destination for researchers to focus on issues such as coastal resiliency and sustainability. It will prepare students for high-paying jobs in all sorts of occupations, and it will help preserve and enhance the state economy.”

Alison Barlow, executive director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District: “This new center of excellence would have a significant impact throughout Tampa Bay. Its work certainly would benefit Port Tampa Bay and MacDill Air Force Base. The region’s growing reputation as a destination for business start-ups would be enhanced. The researchers, students and high-paying jobs it attracts also would improve our standing in the Tampa Bay Partnership’s annual Regional Competitiveness Report, which ranks us in various categories against our peers such as Orlando, Charlotte and Nashville.”