Although the University of South Florida became Florida’s third preeminent state research university last year, there has yet to be a state school located in South Florida that has reached such prominence.
One is now beginning to emerge.
Florida International University, located nearly 300 miles south of USF’s Tampa campus, secured a foothold in the highly sought-after push for preeminence on Thursday when the state’s Board of Governors declared it an “emerging preeminent state research university.”
By meeting eight of 12 academic and research metrics necessary to reach preeminence — and, thus, be eligible for millions of dollars in additional funding every Legislative session — FIU has become the first South Florida university to achieve the emergent status, and it is one step closer to achieving full preeminence.
“As a relatively young institution — compared to our peers in the State University System — this is a major milestone moment in our history,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said in a statement. “It’s an honor to receive this kind of recognition from the state legislature and the Board of Governors, because it truly speaks to their confidence in our mission to provide economic mobility for our diverse community, while also accelerating our efforts as a top-tier research university.”
The University of Florida and Florida State University are the two other preeminent universities in Florida. USF, which obtained emergent preeminence in 2016, made the leap to complete preeminence last June. The year it reached preeminence, USF received about $6.15 million in extra funding that helped open a college of medicine, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Florida law states that each emerging preeminent university shall receive one-fourth of the total increased funding awarded to preeminent universities.
The metrics necessary for preeminence are outlined in the state statute. They include graduation and student-retention rates, research expenditures and patents awarded. To achieve emergent preeminence, universities must meet six of the metrics annually. For full preeminence, they must meet 11 each year.
FIU met the requirements for the following eight metrics: average GPA and SAT score for incoming freshman students; freshman retention rate; National Academy members among faculty; non-medical science and engineering research expenditures; national ranking in STEM; research expenditures; patents awarded; doctoral degrees awarded annually; and number of post-doctoral appointees.
FIU is now focused on achieving a top-50 position on at least two well-known national public university rankings, breaking $200 million or more in science and engineering research expenditures and a 4-year graduation rate of 60 percent or higher for full-time, first-time-in-college students.
As an emerging preeminent university, FIU must now submit a five-year benchmark plan to the Board of Governors with “target rankings on key performance metrics for national excellence,” according to State Statute 1001.7065.
“Upon approval by the Board of Governors, and upon the university’s meeting the benchmark plan goals annually, the Board of Governors shall award the university its proportionate share of any funds provided annually to support the program created under this section,” the statute reads.
The Florida Legislature enacted the preeminence program in 2013. The emerging preeminent status followed in 2016.
“Thank you to our faculty who played a critical role in FIU’s meteoric rise in research preeminence going from meeting only two preeminent criteria in 2018 to eight in 2019,” said Kenneth G. Furton, FIU provost and executive vice president, in a statement.