Last week, for the first time ever, the University of Miami defeated the University of Florida in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. Miami was ranked 47th, while UF dropped six places to 53rd. It was the first time since 2002 that UF was not in the national top-50. UF also dropped two spots to 17th on the public university rankings.
This week, UF announced they lost $33 million in state and private funding, not including a total loss of $21 million to Shands Hospital due to Charlie Crist removing a 30-year old budget line item. UF's research funding was up to $678 million, but that was due to stimulus act funding, which is the best thing ever or the worst thing, depending on your political leanings. As the stimulus act expires, UF will see their research grants sink. Only increases in tuition will keep UF afloat.
This was the atmosphere that surrounded Gainesville when school started this week. As a student, it is easy to ignore what rich white men in government buildings do. That is until your tuition goes up or your major is cut. Today, UF is becoming more selective not because the classes are harder, but because they are cutting enrollment to save money. While UF can be confident in that FSU will stay in the rear view mirror at 104th in the U.S. News rankings, we are in danger of becoming a sports-only school.
That is where you come in. For the next few weeks, every Gator Club in America will be busy. They will be holding viewing parties, kickoff events, and in the case of the Tampa Gator Club, the Gator Rompin' Bar Crawl on Saturday in South Tampa. The Gator Club is a part of the UF Alumni Association, but you don't have to be an alum to join. Membership is $40 per person and $50 for a couple.
Money contributed to Gator Clubs and the Alumni Association funds scholarships at Florida and in your local area. If more money is contributed to scholarships, that is less money the university has to spend on scholarships. That means more funds for academic programs. Private donations mean less reliance on state and federal funds, which will rise and fall with which political party is in power.
If you have the money, you can contribute more to the UF Alumni Association or become a Gator Booster for a minimum of $100 per year. However, we suggest donating to the academic side, since we are no better than Auburn or FSU if our academics suck.
If you are one of those Gator fans who wants nothing to do with the University, I'm sorry, you're not a real fan. Football and basketball play about 50 dates. For the other 300 days, the University of Florida and the talent of the students and alumni is the real team. If the University looks bad, so will the Gators and vice versa.
The University is not on the verge of financial ruin, but you should be concerned when Miami is seen as a better academic school. If you expect to win on the field, you should expect to win in the classroom. The best way for you to do that is to join a Gator Club and become an Alumni Association member. UF needs you. Don't let the Gator Nation down.