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Why The Work Of USF Is Important, And Why The Legislature’s Benchmark Change Will Fail Students

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USF students are more diverse, come from tougher backgrounds, and yet achieve more academically and earn tougher degrees than their counterparts. Why should the university be punished for this?

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Reminder: you can reach out to your state legislator ahead of tomorrow’s budget vote by clicking here. A change to the current “conforming bill” is what is needed to get USF the preeminent status and funding to which they are entitled.

USF sent out a sheet of statistics that shows why the work the university does is important, and why it deserves preeminent status from the Florida legislature. They show the strength in diversity of USF’s student population, as well as the importance of the work the university does every day.

40.9% of USF students are from limited income backgrounds and receive Pell Grants (29.7% at UF and 27.7% at FSU)

55% of all USF baccalaureate graduates have received Pell Grants (41% at UF and 38% at FSU)

33% of all USF baccalaureate degrees are awarded to African American and Hispanic students (28% at UF and 26% at FSU)

USF is recognized as a national model for eliminating the completion gap (6-year graduation rate) – between Pell recipients (68%) and students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (67%), and African American (69%), Hispanic (68%), and White (67%) students

USF leads all Florida universities with 69.6% of graduates employed one year after graduation (69.4% at UF and 63.7% at FSU)

USF leads all Florida universities with 62.0% of baccalaureate degrees awarded in high need areas defined by the State of Florida – STEM, Health, Education, Accounting, and IT (56.9% at UF and 42.8% at FSU)

USF leads all Florida universities with 78.0% of graduate degrees awarded in high need areas defined by the State of Florida – STEM, Health, Education, Accounting, and IT (70.3% at UF and 46.0% at FSU)

USF invests $449 M in research grants annually ($742 M at UF and $243 M at FSU)

USF professors and students were awarded 314 patents over three years (307 at UF and 101 at FSU)

Source: Florida Board of Governors 2015-16 Accountability Reports

So here’s the thing: USF students come from more difficult backgrounds. They have to work while they’re in school. Their student body is more diverse than their counterparts in Gainesville and Tallahassee. But they still achieve academically as well as students from UF and FSU. And in the fields that really matter for the jobs of the future (STEM, Health, etc... we say this as a poli sci grad), they outperform.

The make-up of the student body may vary greatly among universities. How is one to summarily conclude that a university with a student profile of 41% Pell grant recipients (a large number of students who must work while in school) and a four-year graduation rate of 54% is doing a lesser job of graduating students than a university with a four-year graduation rate of 60% and a much lower percentage of Pell grant recipients. A four-year standard of 50%, effectively twice the current national average (which is 26%) allows for consideration of the varying socio-economic profiles of different universities. A higher standard would encourage our urban universities to serve a narrower cross section of the socio-economic spectrum. This would not be in the economic best interest of our community.

So USF students might not graduate as quickly, even though they finish in four years at twice the national average. They’re too busy getting tougher undergraduate degrees, working jobs while doing so, and coming from communities where they more likely the first in their family to graduate from college.

That’s not something that should keep USF from preeminent status: it’s something that should enhance their case for being preeminent.