USF’s historic invitation to join the Association of American Universities takes what many in Tampa Bay once considered a “best-kept secret” to an unprecedented new level. Joining the AAU is a tremendous milestone as it formalizes USF's position as a leading research university. Founded in 1956, the university has rapidly evolved into a global powerhouse that transforms lives through education, research and innovation. USF, with campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, is the first public university in Florida to be invited to join the AAU in nearly 40 years and is now one of only two institutions from the State University System of Florida to serve as an AAU member.
Its path toward AAU was first set by the university’s Board of Trustees more than 15 years ago. Current President Rhea Law served as the board chair in 2007 when USF formally added AAU membership as an aspiration in its strategic plan. Achieving that lofty goal enhances funding opportunities for USF. Member universities receive the majority of competitively awarded ederal funding for research. According to the AAU, faculty at their member universities perform 64% of the total amount of federally funded basic research ($31.5 billion).
Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense rely on universities to perform critical research in the national interest. For USF, it means more opportunities to respond to great challenges, as it has done in studying the Deepwater Horizon and developing tools for early detection of dementia. USF is already among the most research-intensive universities in the nation and one of the world’s top universities for generating new U.S. patents.
As an AAU institution, USF is positioned to further enhance its role of meeting the state’s workforce needs and driving economic development. USF generates an annual economic impact of $6 billion, supporting more than 68,000 jobs. Companies from across the country are relocating to Tampa Bay – one of the nation’s fastest growing regions – and many credit the robust pool of talent created by USF, especially in cybersecurity. This trajectory will only continue as the brightest faculty, staff and students are historically known to gravitate to AAU universities located in metropolitan areas, helping bring more federal tax dollars to the state of Florida.
AAU membership will make USF an even more attractive destination for high-achieving students from across the world. This year, USF received applications from more than 65,000 prospective students – a 30 percent increase from two years ago. The most recent incoming class of students boasts an average high school GPA of 4.25, an average SAT score of 1306, an average ACT score of 28 and includes 68 National Merit Scholars.
USF is also one of the youngest institutions to be welcomed into the AAU, a reflection of the university’s fast rise. It joins the ranks of prestigious universities, such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Florida, UCLA, Ohio State and Michigan. Of the association’s 71 members, USF is the fifth youngest and one of only six AAU universities to be founded after 1950.
As another indicator of the university’s trajectory, this fall USF reached its highest ranking ever from U.S. News & World Report and has now been ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in America for five consecutive years. Throughout the past decade, USF has jumped 43 spots among public universities from No. 88 to No. 45, and 72 spots among all universities, from No. 161 to No. 89.