In the midst of an economic recession, Florida’s education system is suffering more than that of most other states. In the last two fiscal years, the Florida Legislature cut spending on the state university system by $285 million, which meant the state’s 11 public universities had to cut individual spending by as much as $70 million, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
For Florida universities faced with plunging budgets and underfunded programs, the best solution is to raise tuition. The Florida Legislature passed a bill that would allow universities to raise tuition by up to 15 percent. If the bill is signed by Gov. Charlie Crist, universities will be able to make up for the budget losses.
USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said the faculty wanted to cut enrollment by 27 percent, but the University would be better served by raising tuition. Cutting enrollment would lower some costs but would also lower overall revenue.
Students may grumble over the rising cost of college attendance, but even with the full
15 percent increase, Florida students will still be better off than many other states.
With a range of $3,400 to $4,000 a year, Florida universities have the lowest costs of any state in the country, according to a College Board tuition survey. From 2003 to 2006, Florida tuitions rose only 2 percent, much less than the national average of 24 percent. An increase in cost may hurt some, but it will ultimately allow universities to enroll more students, since universities clearly cannot rely on the state for funding.
Florida ranked 50th among all the states and the District of Columbia in education funding compared to relative wealth in a report released last year by the U.S. Census Bureau. The state spent $33.51 on education for every $1,000 earned by residents, significantly less than the national average of $43.34.
With the lowest tuition rates in the country and the second lowest amount of state funding compared to relative wealth, Florida universities are struggling to pay the bills, let alone provide the quality of education needed in a competitive work environment. They also have the highest student-to-faculty ratio in the country, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Despite possible protests from faculty and students, USF’s decision to take full advantage of the tuition hike is the correct one. Faculty and professors will be able to keep their jobs, students will receive a higher quality of education and the school will be able to accept more applicants.