On the table at todays Board of Trustees meeting are proposals that may reach a little further into students pockets next fall.
Todays meeting will determine the fate of possible tuition differential increases as well as the possibility of a $2 per credit hour Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF) fee increase.
In light of the $39.1 million cut to the Tampa campus budget from the state, USF is preparing to request a 15 percent increase in the tuition differentials the full amount the state has authorized universities to increase tuition differentials by per year to raise $17 million to reinject into the budget.
USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said to The Oracle in an April interview that the Legislature factored in universities requesting the full 15 percent tuition differential increase in creating their base budgets, all of which received significant cuts.
Yet not all universities have requested for the full increase.
While four Florida universities have requested the full 15 percent increase, the University of Florida announced Friday that they would request only a nine percent increase.
State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said it was unlikely that all 15 percent increase requests would be approved.
USF student body President and Board of Trustees member Brian Goff said he is torn between deciding what to advocate for.
As a student and as student body president, clearly, Im obviously against tuition increases, personally, he said. But as a university trustee, I see where the value in it is, because we are facing very extensive budget cuts, so raising the tuition differential does make up for part of that, and can ensure that we have the ability to expand course offerings and be competitive in keeping our professors.
But Goff said he will voice all of his concerns to other Board members in hopes that only a partial increase takes effect.
If we keep raising tuition the full 15 percent, eventually tuition is going to be outrageous, he said. I personally feel were setting a dangerous precedent, because were sending the message to the state legislature that you can continue to cut us, because were going to keep raising tuition to make up for that cut.
Also to be discussed tomorrow is the $2 per credit hour increase to the CITF fee, which hasnt been raised from the existing $4.76 per credit hour across the state since 1998. Yet this year, 10 state universities are requesting the $2 increase.
When the state releases the CITF funds for use every few years, USF gets about $6.7 million to spend on capital improvements. If the $2 increase is approved, USF will get approximately $22.1 million, according to projections based on enrollment estimates by Board of Governors Chief Financial Officer Tim Jones.
The amount was so much more, and we would really get the opportunity to create a first-class, or world-class facility for our students, CITF Increase Committee Chairwoman Joann Strobbe said.
The CITF Increase Committee recommended that $9.5 million from the new funds be used in further developing the Marshall Student Center in a three floor expansion above the loading dock.
They also recommended that $4.5 million be used toward Phase II of Campus Recreation improvements, including $1.5 million for a leisure pool complex, $1 million for locker room renovations and $2 million for fitness, training and common area renovations. The last time CITF money was used was to fund the $11 million renovation to Campus Rec and $3 million to create Champions Choice Dining Hall.
Strobbe said the committee unanimously approved of recommending the fee increase.
In all of the fee discussions throughout several years, there has been a strong sentiment from student representatives in that when there are increases, there is a specific outcome, she said. They want to know something concrete is happening with those funds. Students were most concerned with continuing to raise fees, but because this hasnt been raised for 20 years, they really felt this would be beneficial.
Strobbe said the benefit of CITF funds, unlike Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, which the state has been cutting back on in recent years, is that students have a higher degree of control in directing the funds.
PECO has traditionally funded academic space, and we are told that these funds could fund academic space, but the nice things with (CITF) funds is that they require that students are heavily involved in the planning and determination of how these funds are going to be used, she said. What I like is that it will continue to be student-directed even after it is approved.
The CITF committee was comprised of three students appointed by Goff and three faculty and staff members appointed by USF President Judy Genshaft. Strobbe said when the Marshall Student Center was built, several committees were formed with strong representation from the student body to further direct how the funds were to be used.
Unlike tuition increases, which must be approved by the Board of Governors, Strobbe said local Boards of Trustees have the authority via state statute to implement changes in the CITF fee. If the increase passes today, it will take effect in August.