There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
But even those think-out-of-the-box types are hard-pressed to explain how the budgetary belt-tightening now taking place in Florida’s university system better educates students.
As detailed in today’s Oracle, a 4 percent base budget cut is set for state universities, and a 10 percent cut may soon follow. Already, aftershocks of present and planned cuts are spilling over into the day-to-day operations of USF, such as bigger classes and turned-up classroom thermostats.
Though these measures – ultimately necessitated by a tax revenue miscalculation on the part of the state – may seem minor, they are hardly the worst to come to USF. A special legislative session is slated for September and Gov. Crist has alluded to a potential 10 percent cut in funding for all state agencies, including the State University System(SUS).
The coup de grÃ¢ce is that Florida’s public colleges and universities will only know their real budgets in September – after classes begin.
So the Florida Board of Governors – which is charged with running the SUS – has preemptively clamped down to the tune of hiring freezes and limits on freshman enrollment.
For starters, the combination of cuts and uncertainty means that Florida’s universities will continue to be woefully understaffed.
As detailed by the St. Petersburg Times, the ratio of students to tenured faculty in the SUS is already 30:1, the second-worst in the nation.
Per-student spending on the part of the state is at a relatively historic low, too.
Again, the Times reports spending to have been $14,000 in 1989-90. Today, the figure is a mere $11,500.
On the flip side, the Times describes undergraduate tuition in Florida as “among the cheapest in the nation.”
Cheap, in part, because Gov. Crist vetoed a tuition increase put forth by the legislature. In July, the BOG called for a 5 percent increase for Spring 2008, though estimates indicate a 25 percent increase would be needed to stave off the damage of a 4 percent budget cut.
Students at a first-tier research university should be able to put two and two together: Sagging state support for Florida’s university system plus stagnating tuition rates equals a bitter pill for students. A tuition increase, however, could make this penny pinching a bit easier to swallow should it maintain the quality of college education.