The biggest and best investment of my life

A college degree is expensive. For me, it has been the biggest investment of my life.

As an undergraduate, I attended Duke University, which had relatively high tuition, and I received no financial aid.  After four years, I had today’s equivalent of nearly $40,000 in college loans. 

In addition to loans, throughout my 12 years of undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked as a dishwasher, a construction laborer, a security guard and a graduate assistant.

For me, the expense of college has not only been my biggest investment but also my best investment. 

I have benefited from the education and degrees I obtained from my years of study. Also, the universities I attended used my tuition money to become stronger and better.

My degree from Duke today is much more valuable than it was when I graduated, because the reputation and stature of the university have increased dramatically in the past 40 years. The money I earned or borrowed for tuition and fees was the best possible investment I could have made in both myself and in the university.

This week, our elected officials finalized the state budget. I am so very grateful Florida’s leaders value UF and have again provided additional funds for facilities, recruiting faculty and operations. 

As a result of the state’s investment in UF and in contrast to almost all of our peers, we will not have a tuition increase next year.

We compare ourselves to our top-33 peer (competitor) public universities, all in other states. We are proud that our in-state tuition is the lowest in that group. The next-lowest tuition, at Iowa State University, is 20 percent higher than UF’s. Almost all of our true peers, including the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia and the University of California, Berkeley, have in-state tuition that is more than twice as much as UF’s. 

Our aspiration is for UF to be among the nation’s very best public universities. In order to achieve that aspiration, we must have a faculty-to-student ratio that is competitive with the best. We must provide compensation for our faculty and staff. We must provide stipends for our graduate assistants equal to the nation’s very best universities.

In summary, we must find additional revenues to invest more in our faculty and graduate assistants.

We also are committed to being among the nation’s most affordable universities for students and families, including those with financial need. Therefore, we must also find additional revenues to invest more in need-based aid.

UF will soon publicly launch a $3 billion fundraising campaign that will create endowments for faculty professorships, graduate-student fellowships and need-based aid for undergraduates. 

We will partner with our state-elected and appointed officials to increase the state investment in UF and to improve return-on-investment. We will also work to reduce unnecessary expenses.

Finally, we will be exceptionally good stewards of the tuition funds we receive. If college is the biggest investment of your life, as it was for me, I am confident you will find that your investment in UF is also the best of your life. The valuable diploma you receive at commencement will be worth even more in the future than it is today.