Gov. Rick Scott's signing of the Career and Professional Education Act on April 22 effectively positions Florida State University and the University of Florida for pre-eminent status, and puts FSU on the fast track to move into the top 25 in the national rankings of public colleges and universities.
Under the legislation, FSU and UF will receive a higher level of state funding as a result of both schools' proven ability to meet a set of rigorous standards of excellence.
Earlier this year, Florida State introduced a bold proposal to break into the U.S. News & World Report Top 25 ranking of national public universities. By using a combination of state and private dollars that will be tied to a set of benchmarks to make the university a national leader in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as career readiness and job placement, I am confident Florida State will achieve this goal.
The Top 25 plan calls for an additional state commitment of $75 million of base funding, divided into $15 million increments over the next five years. The university intends to match the state's financial commitment through increased philanthropy directed toward achieving a top 25 ranking.
I have no doubt Florida State can reach the top 25 within a fairly short time because our plan is realistic and we have momentum. I am confident for three reasons.
First, Florida State is currently ranked No. 42 among public universities. However, for the majority of the academic metrics, such as retention rates and graduation performance, Florida State is already in the top 30 of public universities. Targeted investment will yield a clear path to even higher rankings.
Second, Florida State has already proven to be a national leader in effectively allocating what have been dwindling financial resources. U.S. News & World Report recently placed FSU at the top of their list of the most efficient universities in delivering quality. Quite simply, we have demonstrated that we know how to invest a dollar in quality.
Florida State is currently ranked No. 212 in financial resources among all the 270 ranked national universities. Since 1999, Florida State has dropped 46 places in financial resources compared to its peers, while at the same time achieving its highest quality ratings in 15 years.
Earlier this year, the university's Board of Trustees established an efficiency team to identify even greater savings that could potentially be reallocated for academic programs. Chaired by trustee Margaret A. "Peggy" Rolando, the new team began its work with a university-wide self-study that includes input from students as well as faculty and staff.
Third, Florida State's investments will be strategic, following a detailed plan — a set of "big ideas" that will launch us firmly into the future.
Our objective is simple — to provide a cutting-edge education to the residents of Florida while ensuring that our graduates have highly successful careers. As an institution, we have been doing more with less since the start of the economic recession. Now that conditions have improved in Florida, we are poised to escalate our rise in the national rankings with the support of the governor and the Legislature. They deserve our thanks.
Eric J. Barron is president of Florida State University.