USF students are suffering from a severe case of the back-to-school blues, for reasons that won’t fade away as quickly as the overfilled parking lots and long lines at the bookstore and the campus Starbucks.

Many classes are now filled to standing room only – or cancelled outright – because a tax revenue shortfall in Florida may result in shaving 4 percent to 10 percent from the State University System’s (SUS) 2007-2008 budget. Library hours have also been cut, and the ranks of the University Police (UP) are dwindling due in large part to salaries at UP- which, by the way, doesn’t cut its own slice of USF’s budgetary pie – not competing with those of area law enforcement agencies.

For these reasons, the state Senate Higher Education Appropriation’s committee should make their discussion of a minimal tuition increase Tuesday – about $100 per year for the average student, according to the Associated Press – into a reality. Proponents of the increase have argued that it would raise nearly $20 million for the SUS, of which a $9.5 million chunk would be available to universities, thus helping to insulate classes and staffing from likely cuts.

In order to increase tuition, the committee would write a 2.5 percent increase for the Spring 2008 semester and an annual 5 percent increase into the revised budget, to be reviewed in September in a special session.

As dire as the need for decisive action to the tune of a tuition increase may be, it is uncertain if the increase will materialize. Gov. Charlie Crist wields veto power over budget changes, veto power that he used to shoot down a tuition increase this spring.

This is because Crist thinks raising tuition by the amount that many students spend on decorating their dorm rooms somehow threatens their access to higher education. In a statement released in July, Crist explained, “We are going to fight to make sure the American dream of higher education is affordable for all students.”

Crist’s vote-winning populist dream has undoubtedly soured as the year has progressed. Crist may have kept education artificially “affordable,” in one crude sense, but whether students – or Florida’s economy – can truly afford dulled intellectual tools when graduates compete in the global marketplace is unlikely.

Yet the governor remains unconvinced. On Tuesday, he did not offer reporters any real defense of this stubbornness, maintaining only that he would “rather not have it (tuition) go up.”

In a perfect world, neither would we. But the fact that USF is less and less able to pay for basic University functions because it simply can’t provides a painful reality check.

Luckily, the solution – that students shell out a couple hundred bucks a semester – doesn’t hurt anyone all that much, except, perhaps,

pandering politicians.