USF will have to shave millions

A legislative session that could lead to large budget cuts for all Florida universities in the fiscal year of 2003-04 begins today. For USF, that could mean a $31-million budget reduction if the governor’s recommendations are approved.

In Gov. Jeb Bush’s proposed budget for higher education, Florida universities share a $148.8-million budget reduction.

In addition, legislators will have to reach agreements on recommendations for financial aid, salary increases and tuition increases.

Legislators will have until May 2 to review Bush’s proposed budget, as well as a budget from the House and Senate.

Here is a look at some of the recommendations that will affect USF:

Tuition Increase

Bush’s budget suggests a 7.5-percent across-the-board tuition increase for all Florida universities. The tuition, which was proposed by Education Secretary Jim Horne, was said to be needed to meet the national average of tuition, as well as to fund more resources at Florida universities. The Board of Trustees could add another 5-percent tuition increase.

However, with the 7.5-percent tuition raise, USF would lose funding, said Kathy Betancourt, associate vice president for government relations at USF.

“The budget is bad because tuition is increased but the money doesn’t come to the university,” Betancourt said. “Students ought to see the services they are buying.”

Betancourt said the proposed tuition increase could change because it is still a recommendation.

Susan MacManus, professor for political science at USF, said she expects the tuition increase to be relatively close to the recommendations in the budget.

“I would expect it to be reduced slightly when our legislators (review the budget),” MacManus said.

Salary Increases

With the approval of Amendment 9, the state will have to find a way to pay for reduced class sizes. That could mean a cut in salary increases for all of Florida, said state Republican Sen. Victor Crist of District 12.

“I don’t see any significant salary increases in the state anywhere,” Crist said. “The reason for that is shortages of revenue and the recent mandate to fund class size reductions.”

According to the USF Web site’s overview on budget policy and analysis, there will be no funding provided for an across-the-board salary increase with the governor’s recommendations.

Under the governor’s budget, Betancourt said USF may have to layoff positions as it did last year in the Health Sciences Center, which could receive a $2.5-million budget cut.

” A bulk of the money the university gets goes into personnel, but when you have drastic cuts, you cut positions,” Betancourt said. “(But) currently, the governor’s budget is just a recommendation.”

However, MacManus said Florida universities will not be alone when it comes to paying for the class size amendment.

“There’s not enough money to go around, period,” MacManus said. “The demands for state transportation, social service … faculty will still have health care benefits.”

Bright Futures

Recommendations for Bright Futures, if passed, would limit the number of students receiving the lottery-funded award. In doing so, the Department of Education has said it will allow more money to be invested into financial aid.

According to the USF Web site, universities will have to cover the difference from other funding sources if Bright Futures is funded at the current tuition rates, which are about $2,691 per year. USF would have to find about $2.2 million to cover the difference if the recommendations to Bright Futures are approved.

Crist, chairman for the justice budget, said it is too early to tell what will happen to any proposal. However he said he remains optimistic for the scholarship’s future.

“I think Bright Futures will survive the legislative session,” Crist said. “I want to make sure the focus stays on what the intent of Bright Futures is. It is a reward to the students that they have earned.”

Enrollment Funding

This year, USF overenrolled 1,229 students, 862 of them at the Tampa campus that should have brought about $5 million to USF. However, with the proposed budget, USF will not receive any funding for over-enrollment.

Betancourt said this is one of the major concerns with the legislative session this year.

“The concern the university is looking at is we’re still in the process of accepting students,” Betancourt said. “It’s not that we’re overenrolled, we’re underfunded. We weren’t receiving money for students, even before the amendments. That’s a problem for all universities.”