The numbers were thrown around. Accompanying them was the expected economic jargon. There were discrepancies and projections, aspirations and doubts. And there were a lot of questions.
But if one concrete conclusion could be taken from Tuesday’s USF Board of Trustees executive committee meeting, it’s that the Board is concerned about the financial future of the university.
The committee spent about an hour and 15 minutes of its morning meeting discussing the 2003-2004 budget and USF’s legislative priorities with executive vice president, Carl Carlucci. At the heart of the Board’s concerns are how to handle the roughly $111-million cut from the state university budget this year.
According to USF’s budget highlight report, USF’s share in the cuts will be more than $20 million.
“When we passed Amendment 9 (the multi-billion-dollar class size initiative), we all knew it was going to hurt us badly,” said BOT chairman Dick Beard. “It’s going back to us having to manage and run this university profitably with all the divisions.”
While the administration said it would attempt to keep last year’s budget cuts from directly affecting students, Carlucci and the Board acknowledged that enrollment will now be an issue.
The center of the problem, Carlucci said, is USF’s projected growth plan. USF is currently over-enrolled by 1,200 students. Normally, Carlucci said, the university would use the new fiscal year to help “catch up.” But, he said, the $5 million expected from the state to help fund enrollment will no longer be coming.
USF President Judy Genshaft said the university cannot simply cut enrollment.
“If you don’t take more (students) on, then next year you’re punished (financially) because they say there is no growth,” Genshaft said.
“It’s a catch-22,” Beard said.
In addition, money sent to other USF campuses could hurt the institution. Carlucci said, even though the funds may be used for growth on the campuses, they still look like maintenance money. The result, he said, is that the university could be penalized.
Genshaft said the solution may have to come from a reduction in the transfer student population. BOT member and Faculty Senate president Greg Paveza said it is important to maintain graduate students, because an elimination of those students would “substantially reduce research capacity.”
The lack of money may force the Board to again raise tuition. The state has provided a provision for a 7.5 percent across-the-board increase with an extra 5 percent at the Board’s discretion. In addition, tuition increases for out-of-state students are discretionary for the Board.
But, Beard said, just raising tuition will not be a final solution.
“If we use all of (the increase), we’re still in the hole,” Beard said.
Genshaft said the nature of the current budget may force the university to recruit more students from outside of Florida, a move she called a “shift in philosophy.”
“To support students, we may have to take more out-of-state,” Genshaft said.
And, Carlucci said, the news is not good for faculty either. He said the 2.5 percent raise last year will be the only new money faculty members will see.
“There really is no new money for salary increases,” Carlucci said.
In addition to faculty and student concerns, Board members discussed how budget cuts will affect the infrastructure of the university. Beard said new buildings that have recently opened require about $2 million to maintain. The state will no longer support those buildings.
Trustee Lee Arnold said he is concerned that the physical plant, lacking funds, will become run down. He said finding money to pay for upkeep will be difficult.
“We’ll be robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Arnold said.
In addition to upkeep problems, the state has said that once current building projects are finished, there will be no new money for future projects.
At the heart of Carlucci’s presentation is the current draft of the legislative priorities. USF will soon begin the process of lobbying the Legislature for every last available penny. Arnold and other trustee members said they would like the legislative priorities to more strongly reflect USF’s strategic plan.
“I get two minutes with the Legislature,” Arnold said. “I’ve got to be able to say this is (our) mission.”
Trustee Rhea Law said the Legislature needs to be convinced that USF is committed to its strategic plan.
“Until they buy into that, they’ll never believe funding is important,” Law said.