Freshman Tiffani Smith won’t be able to get a job next fall because she will be taking more classes then she planned. Smith is one example of how state budget cuts have already affected students.
“I depend on financial aid, so since there are no summer classes, I won’t be able to move out of my house,” Smith said, recognizing the reality that if she doesn’t work during the Fall she won’t be able to afford to live on her own.
Smith is one of many students who have heard rumors of summer classes being completely wiped out, but Vice Provost Catherine Batsche said there is no merit to that rumor.
“Summer classes will still be offered,” Batsche said.Batsche said the administration did not make it clear in order for the students to understand how much would be cut.
“At the moment, there will definitely be summer sessions,” Batsche said. “The source of some of the rumors probably came from the language being used. When we said we would have to cut summer school, we actually meant reducing summer school.”
Since the last special session the Florida State Legislature has been working to make budget cuts in education, health care and other areas due to the lack of tourism since the Sept. 11 attacks. Gov. Jeb Bush called for another special session in late October because of declining revenue and because the first session had not accomplished everything he hoped.
But this leaves the fate of the 11 state universities in question: How much will be cut and how they will the cuts affect each college within the universities?
Batsche said there would be fewer offerings than in past years, but the real number of classes can’t be decided until the second special session ends later in the week.
Batsche said colleges planned on a 5 percent permanent base-cut from the last decision made during the first special session. But the faculty who are on contracts need to finish out the year, so the university took a base budget reduction in order to compensate for the 5 percent cut. This may give the university a one-time cash back.
“We may receive some cash back,” she said. “When we receive the spring bill whatever is left will go towards summer school classes.”
Batsche said this money will help keep some summer classes.
She said the administration is working with the deans of each college to come up with some priorities for the students who need to graduate.
“We explained that exit requirements and requirements for majors need to be a priority (for summer classes),” she said. “After all that is taken care of, we will offer courses for lower level sections, but we would have to increase the class sizes.”
Batsche said they are focusing on general education programs and courses needed for a major. She also said the students would probably see fewer elective courses in the summer school than in past years.
Another concern for some students is the money they would be receiving from the state scholarship program, Bright Futures.
Bob Sullins, the undergraduate dean for USF, said he has the understanding it has been determined that students won’t be receiving money if they take summer classes from the state.
“We don’t know how the cuts will affect the Bright Futures applicants,” Sullins said. “It may discourage students from taking summer courses and they may just load up in the fall instead.”Sullins said it would have to be a decision on a student-by-student basis.
Crystal Pena, a freshman, said after she heard the news about Bright Futures she won’t be taking any summer classes.
“I’ll stay the extra two semesters if it means I don’t have to pay (out of my pocket) for it,” Pena said.
Joel Verzosa said he agrees with Pena.
“I wasn’t planning on taking summer classes anyway because I don’t have the money, and I am going on vacation,” Verzosa said. “But mainly I’m not taking classes because of the budget cuts and I’m on Bright Futures.
Students also are required by the state to take nine credit hours over the summer before they graduate. Sullins said it is not clear how it will be affected by the limit on summer classes.
“I would assume that the nine credit hour requirement would be relieved,” Sullins said. “But that would be a requirement that the state board would have to approve.”
Batsche said they are also exploring different options to the summer sessions.
“An idea was maybe having a one 10-week session in some colleges,” Batsche said.
Sullins and Batsche both said any final decisions are about a month or two away, and once a decision is rendered departments will notify students.
“There will be classes but it is still up in the air,” Batsche said.Yet, Pena said the university could have done a better job notifying students of the inconvenience.”They probably could have given more information, maybe on OASIS, The Oracle and maybe could have had some professors let us know,” Pena said.
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