When Gov. Rick Scott announced in February that he would reject any proposals for state universities to increase tuition, it seemed that he had restored his reputation among protesting students.
However, now that USF and others are facing severe budget cuts, tuition increases may be the best option in a sea of bad choices.
If the current budget and a bill that would turn the Polytechnic branch campus into a separate university were to pass in its current form, USF could lose about 20 percent, or $37 million, of its current funding. If tuition were allowed to increase by the 15 percent the Legislature approved last year, USF could recover $16 million to $17 million. If not, students will suffer.
According to Vice Provost for Strategic and Budget Planning Graham Tobin, most of USFs cash reserves will be spent on the upcoming summer semester and USF must wait until the governor signs the budget to fully know which areas will be hurt by the cuts. Since the University still plans to devote 30 percent of incoming tuition money to financial aid programs, cuts may mean fewer programs or faculty members.
When considering that, according to the Miami Herald, USF was calculated at 134 percent using Floridas classroom space utilization rate formula, which means the University serves 34 percent more students than expected given its size, the budget could already be underestimating the sheer volume of clients USF must serve.
USFs Academic Enrichment and Opportunity Fee, as well as similar fees proposed by the University of Florida (UF) and University of North Florida, was estimated to generate $751,704 for the Tampa campus but was promptly struck down by the Board of Governors (BOG).
It is unreasonable for Scott, legislators and the BOG to expect universities to continue operating at their current level while attempts to gain more revenue are being blocked.
Given the BOGs decision, the state has no other viable option but to allow all state universities to increase tuition. The House and Senate even approved a measure to let UF and Florida State University distressingly set tuition beyond typical 15 percent raises.
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, chair of the House budget panel said the cost of postsecondary education in Florida is almost the lowest in the nation, according to the Tampa Bay Times. However, striving to offer the cheapest education in the nation may not be such a noble pursuit if the quality is reflective of the cost.
Though it is always difficult for students and families to weather another tuition increase, given the current budget proposal it is imperative that the University see an increase in funding to maintain its current level of education.
Scott may be growing tired of being called a flip-flopper, but increasing tuition to save the quality of Florida education is worth braving the nickname once again.