Suspended search for new UF president costly

Published On: Jan 10 2013 11:05:38 AM EST

Bernie Machen

The University of Florida's president is staying put, but the search for a successor still wound up costing the school.

UF President Bernie Machen, who has led the school since 2004, agreed this week to remain on the job at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott and the chairman of the university's board.

But the university - which began a search for a replacement last year - will pay at least $41,000 to the Miramar Beach firm hired to help find a new president.

UF's contract with Greenwood/Asher & Associates called for a total payment of $95,000 in three installments plus up to $9,500 in expenses. The university has already made the first payment.

Janine Sikes, a university spokeswoman, said the school does not expect to pay the full contract amount because the search for a new president was suspended. But Sikes said that it has not yet been determined how much the university will eventually pay.

Machen's decision to remain at the school was a bit of surprise and it came just days before the university board of trustees was expected to pick a successor.

Machen, 69, had announced in June that he would retire in 2013.

He made the announcement shortly after Scott signed a budget that cut funding for the state's universities by $300 million and vetoed a bill that would have exempted Florida and Florida State University from a 15 percent annual cap on tuition increases.

In a written statement, Machen said he changed his mind about retiring after Scott committed to support his goal of making Florida a top 10 university. Florida is listed 17th among national public universities in annual higher education rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

Machen's new found alliance with Scott came months after the UF president criticized the governor for vetoing the tuition bill.

"This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great state of Florida to have two world-class universities," Machen said then.

Scott, who has frequently spoken out against tuition increases, said in a statement that he had asked Machen to stay on the job and looked forward to working with him and other state university officials "to realize a new vision for higher education in Florida."

The governor is expected to recommend a boost in education funding when he unveils his 2013 budget recommendations in the next few weeks. Scott has also said he plans to tie part of university funding to performance goals.

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