I suppose there's some circumstance in which universities might be over-funded, but unless you're the kind of person who feels public money ought not go to higher ed at all, I think it's fair to say that we're not at that point in Florida right now. In fact, the way the state is funding the university system in Florida, one might wonder if there's a concerted attempt afoot to get rid of it all together. It's apparently not enough for the legislature that Florida universities rank 13th from the bottom in appropriation dollars per student, fourth from the bottom in tuition and fees, and fourth from the bottom when the two are put together. We're also near the bottom nationally when it comes to faculty salaries, and that's starting to have an impact that's wider than most might understand.
When a lead Florida State University researcher needed five faculty members last year to start a landmark center dedicated to studying autism, state budget cuts prevented the school from hiring the additional professors.You get what you pay for. Florida isn't paying its best researchers, and is suffering a brain drain to other parts of the country which causes the negative effects to multiply. See, not only are we having problems holding onto our own top researchers, who bring in money both in federal grants and in patent royalties, but we're also losing the up-and-comers who are usually the ones doing the real groundbreaking work.
The Ohio State University, however, had the money, recruited the researcher -- and his more than $1 million in federal grants -- and in a few years could be reaping the benefits of an autism program that may bring $10 million annually to the school.
Statewide, university officials fear more such exoduses as lawmakers prepare to meet in special session next month to discuss another round of financial reductions....
But in addition to the surface-level slashing, university leaders fear the residual effect of pushing out top school researchers who will take their federal grants with them.
But it doesn't stop there. If Florida gets a reputation as a state that doesn't give a crap for research in its university system, then it'll be hard to convince researchers to come here even if we do start throwing money at them. Why should a researcher come to a state that has shown everything from negligence to outright disdain for higher education, which pays its faculty members poorly when they're expected to live in one of the most expensive parts of the country, and which can't be trusted to fund research from one year to the next?
Yes, I understand times are tough economically, but we're talking about losing even more money than we're currently investing, simply because we're disrespecting the people who are bringing in money from outside sources. We're cutting off our noses to spite our faces, and it will haunt us well into the future if we don't do something to change our priorities.