TAMPA — A record number of students applied to the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine this year, an increase school officials attribute in large part to its expected move downtown.
Nearly 6,400 applicants are competing for just 170 seats, according to a presentation Thursday by USF Health officials. The number of applicants has risen 50 percent in three years, surpassing 2016's record of more than 6,100.
Potential students are likely looking forward to the new downtown location, said Edmund Funai, USF Health's chief operating officer, as the university moves forward with plans for a $165 million facility at the intersection of S Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive.
The school plans to move from its on-campus location in north Tampa within two years.
Funai said the project is on track to begin construction in August and open in the fall or winter of 2019. "It's on time, on budget and on schedule."
The move would put students less than a 10-minute drive from both Tampa General Hospital and the university's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, a training facility.
The building will measure 380,000 square feet. The project will also feature an office building and hotel. Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, gave the university the downtown land in October 2014.
USF is the only university with a top-100-ranked medical school more than 25 minutes away from its teaching hospital, according to a report by the school. Only four other universities — the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of California at Irvine, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Texas A&M University — were even 10 minutes away from their hospitals.
Its current home is 40 years old, and its condition is rated "poor," according to the school report, and the downtown location "accommodates the strong preference of (USF) students."
The Heart Institute at the new location will create at least $56 million in economic activity nearby, the school projects, and expects $28 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Students' tuition and fees will be unaffected by the move, the university said in the report.
Contact Langston Taylor at [email protected] Follow @LangstonITaylor.