Florida lawmakers target state university foundations on spending
- Members of the Florida House of Representatives grilled executives from the University of South Florida this week on the topic of spending by its foundation and the value it provides to taxpayers supporting the publicly-funded institution.
- USF officials told the lawmakers that their hiring and outreach efforts are legal, have passed independent audits and are endorsed by trustees appointed by the state's governor. Additionally, the leaders said that their work produces five dollars for every dollar invested in executive salaries, foreign trips and other initiatives to support the university's $1 billion endowment building campaign.
- The lawmakers criticized revelations about the USF Foundation spending more on faculty salary support than student scholarships.
College leaders may consider doing more to expose the work of foundations in community outreach and capacity building at state institutions, as well as ancillary fundraising efforts to support specific endeavors at the school. Major athletic programs, for example, are frequently supported by fundraising independent of institutional budget concerns. This can draw ire from fiscally conservative lawmakers and stakeholders, but it is part of the reality of the academic enterprise.
When schools can demonstrate the costs and vision behind property acquisition, ROI on athletic spending, trips and costs associated with courting high-level donors, there is an appreciation for the unseen costs of working to build a campus' appeal and function, and could allow lawmakers to better understand how money is necessary to grow more resources to help support the surrounding community.