Universities bypass severe budget cuts
Florida universities will not face a massive $100-million- plus cut this year after all. Instead, higher education will receive a $40-million cut, which is less than state officials expected.
As the 12-day special session came to a close Tuesday, the Senate and the House were looking at about a $40-million cut in higher education. While legislators left the Bright Futures scholarship untouched, tuition will increase by 8.5 percent for undergraduate students who are Florida residents for next year.
Carl Carlucci, chief financial officer and executive vice president of USF, said USF and other state universities will not receive funding for incoming freshmen.
Carlucci said that almost $5 million from USF’s base budget is cut due to a lack of funding for student enrollment.
While the passed budget provides less money to higher education, Carlucci said, in the end, the 11 state universities are receiving more money then when budget negotiations began.
“It is a big improvement,” he said. “Going from almost a $114-million cut down to a $40-million (cut) is a much better result.”
Kathy Betancourt, associate vice president of government relations for USF, said even though the cut is down to $40 million, it still poses an obstacle for universities.
“There will be no funding for new students and universities can’t turn people away who are trying to better themselves,” Betancourt said. “It will be a major challenge.”
The 8.5 percent tuition increase for Florida residents will cost students an additional $229. Tuition for out-of-state graduate and professional students could climb as high as 15 percent, depending on the university.
Betancourt said after the conference committees met Friday, the budget could not be changed.
“After sitting on the members’ desks for 72 hours, all the (legislature) could do is vote yes or no,” Betancourt said. “We are grateful for the decrease, but we are still in the hole. But I guess they did the best they could.”
Betancourt added that the tuition increase could not be changed for in-state undergraduates, but the Board of Trustees can add up to 6.5 percent to the 8.5 percent for out-of-state students.
However, Florida students who receive the Bright Futures scholarship can breathe a sigh of relief because the legislature left it fully funded.
“Students have to pay more in tuition, but are getting less in return,” Betancourt said. “That is the heartbreaker.”
Carlucci said USF would most likely receive a budget late Tuesday.
He added that the Board would like to meet by a conference call after the budget is finalized by Gov. Jeb Bush . The trustees would then adjust the base budget, look at the cost to continue operations at the university and then formulate a new budget for the fiscal year 2003-04.
“The university presidents are responsible for the smaller window (in cuts),” Betancourt said. “If it wasn’t for them, it would be a lot worse.”
The special session cost approximately $40,000 a day.