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Florida Atlantic University turns 50

FAU stadium
FAU's football team will play in a new stadium starting this month. [Photo: Florida Atlantic University]

This year, Florida Atlantic University marks its 50th anniversary. As a new football stadium opens — on the heels of new dorms, a new medical school and recent collaborations with research institutions Scripps Florida and Max Planck — President Mary Jane Saunders reflects on what she has found since becoming president in 2010 and what's ahead:

Mary Jane Saunders
Mary Jane Saunders [Photo: Florida Atlantic University]

» 15% tuition hike this year: "People do still need to realize how affordable the university system is. In Florida, we're ranked 48th in funding per student. You don't want to be at the bottom of that pack. The reality is it did not make up the cuts from the state this year."

» Demand: "We more than doubled our applications for the fall class. We found the greatest increase in applicants was to our science programs. We're aiming to hit about 35,000 in head count in the next five years."

» Having the second-lowest graduation rate in the State University System: "Graduation rates are very complex statistics. Would I like it to be better? Absolutely. If you look at the college preparedness of a student going to the University of Florida, it's probably higher. We'd love to have every student who starts with us finish and get a degree. That's one of the goals of my presidency."

» The future: "We have opportunities that no other university in the country has. When you look at Max Planck, its only site in the United States is our Jupiter campus. (FAU's) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute — that's going to explode. We're going to continue to be able to increase the quality of our entering students, which helps that graduation rate, which leads to alumni with very successful careers. The new medical school is going to have an enormous impact on this region. We started in 1961 with a legislative allotment of $1.3 million. Who could say $1.3 million and an empty Air Force base would turn into this? Just think of the opportunities for the next 50."