TAMPA, Fla. -- The University of South Florida has received a significant recognition. 

The Florida Board of Governors voted unanimously on Thursday to formally designate USF as a "Preeminent State Research University," recognizing the institution’s high performance and strong trajectory toward national excellence.

The designation previously has been reserved for the University of Florida and Florida State University.

The designation comes with millions of dollars in additional funding, carries prestige that will benefit USF in many key areas, including new student and faculty recruitment, and will enhance the economic development of the Tampa Bay region.

"This validates our efforts over more than a decade to transform USF into a premiere institution of higher education, rivaling peers twice our age," said USF System President Judy Genshaft.  "This critical designation will have an exponential impact on our continued efforts to grow our research enterprise, provide the highest-quality education to our students, strengthen our partnerships and help us make an even bigger difference in our community."

The Florida Preeminence program, written into state law in 2013, rewards high-achieving universities based on 12 metrics, including graduation rates, student retention rates, research expenditures and the number of patents awarded.  In order to earn Preeminence, a university must meet or exceed at least 11 of the 12 benchmarks.  

In 2016, USF was designated as the state’s first "Emerging Preeminent State Research University" for meeting nine of the 12 requirements.  

Since that time, USF’s six-year graduation rate and student retention rates have improved to qualify for full preeminence.

This year, USF, along with UF and FSU will each receive an increase of approximately $6.15 million in new, recurring funds through the program. The amount of additional dollars awarded for preeminence each year is determined by the legislature and governor through the annual state budget.  

School officials said the influx of new funds will go towards attracting top faculty, research, medical engineering and the new Morsani College of Medicine under construction in downtown Tampa.