After enduring seven years of state budget cuts, UCF is charging on into the new school year with new faculty hires, salary increases for current faculty members and other noteworthy investments.

UCF President John C. Hitt welcomed faculty members back to campus on Aug. 15 in the Student Union and broke the news that 100 new faculty members are to be added this year, according to a press release. These hires are in addition to those who are replacements for retiring or resigning faculty members.

However, Hitt made sure to stress to current faculty that the new additions will not negatively impact their salaries.

"These new colleagues will be hired across the colleges, and 90 percent of them will be tenure-track faculty," Hitt said in the release. "My top priority remains to add as many new faculty members for the following year — and the years beyond — as our resources will allow, while also rewarding you for your talent and efforts."

The wave of state budget cuts began in 2007 and forced staff members to teach more courses or manage larger classes, according to the release. Hitt praised faculty members for maintaining professionalism and remaining focused on students' success in spite of these hardships.

UCF's new budget will allow for salary increases of up to 5 percent — 3 percent across the board and 2 percent merit increases. Before salary increases are given the green light, though, members of the United Faculty of Florida and the UCF Board of Trustees must approve.

Hitt said that once approvals are attained, the raises would go into effect immediately.

Eligible staff members and administrators will be granted these same raises.

Hitt also spoke about the consideration of UCF's expansion downtown, in light of the $2 million UCF has received from the state Legislature for researching this possibility.

"The interest in a greater downtown presence intensified in January when I joined Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and others on a trip to see the Downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University," Hitt said. "Folks, it's impressive."

Additionally, Hitt introduced other investments UCF is making, including raising the graduation rate from 67 percent to 70 percent in the next three years, strengthening the commitment to the newly formed University Innovation Alliance and attracting more outstanding students from around the world.

To assist the initiative of attracting more outstanding students, Hitt announced that there are plans to break ground on a 50,000-square-foot building along Memory Mall in December.

"We believe Global UCF could attract hundreds of students annually, enhancing cultural exchanges on campus and generating much-needed revenue in these days of reduced state support," Hitt said.

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