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Cuts and tuition hikes behind decline in education

It is disappointing that an entire university has breathed a collective sigh of relief with the news that budget cuts will “only” be $40 million, especially when this still means that faculty and students will be worse off than before. This should be no cause for celebration. It should be cause for concern.

While it is true that the budget cuts could have been a lot higher, and were initially projected to be more than $100 million, the net result will still be students paying more money for less education.

Thankfully, Bright Futures scholarships were spared and will remain as they were. This is definitely good news to Florida students, as many of them depend on the program to pay tuition fees.

The program will become increasingly important when the 8.5 percent tuition increase for Florida residents adds an average of $299 per year to the cost of tuition.

For out-of-state students and grad students, who already pay approximately three times the in-state rate, a possible 15 percent hike could mean some students may not be able to afford to attend school at USF.

What makes the tuition increases more galling is that students will have fewer classes to choose from, as many classes will have to be cut.

And the situation shows no signs of improving. The last eight years have brought consecutive budget cut increases. In all, a total of $450 million has been cut from the Florida university budget during the last 12 years.

As enrollment is steadily increasing, and as many teachers’ assistants and professors have been let go due to the budget cuts, inevitably, class sizes will increase. A reduction in both the quantity of classes available and the decline in quality of education that comes from increased class sizes should be of grave concern to students as well as university officials.

It is already virtually impossible to receive some majors in the allotted four years that should be normal for some tracks, a situation that seems bound to get worse.

A clear message has to be sent to the Florida government that the continuing spiral of increased budget cuts year after year is simply unacceptable. The vicious circle of lower quality in education arising from budget cuts has to be broken.