Administrators discuss budget with Senate

USF has suffered a budget cut that strips the University of approximately $51 million – but administrators aren’t sure how they’re going to cut spending.

They have, however, promised to limit the number of new students and eliminate some programs.

Summer classes will remain intact, and President Judy Genshaft has said the University must cut 15 percent off its budget.

“It hasn’t gotten any better or worse … (since) my Webcast,” Genshaft told the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee on Wednesday. “Our vice presidents are working together to find a 15 percent decrease in our budget.”

She said these budget cuts would be more easily managed if the University improves three aspects ,including improving communication between different parts of the University, creating a tighter-knit infrastructure and working on a global initiative.

“We don’t want to get rid of these houses, but we need to prove we can do this centrally,” Genshaft said.

For the first time in 35 years, Florida is experiencing a severe economic downturn, resulting in a drop in tax collection and a decrease of the amount of state money available to State University System institutions like USF.

Usually, tax collections can be expected to grow 5 percent per year, but in 2007 it dropped by 2 percent and for 2008 is expected to drop by 3 percent, Provost Ralph Wilcox said.

“Florida isn’t the only state facing these economic challenges,” he said.

The core principles to uphold during these budget cuts are centrality, quality, demand and sustainability, he said. Keeping with these principles while enacting a 15-percent cut may force the University to hold off enrollment and include the “reduction, or perhaps elimination of, programs,” he said. The cut will also impact class size and admissions.

Class sizes are not expected to come down any time soon, Wilcox said.

Summer course offerings will not be cut.

USF, however, will be reducing the number of students accepted.

“We’re in the process of reducing our enrollment plan by 7 percent,” he said.

Since freshman enrollment has already been frozen for 2008-2009, the admission of transfer and graduate students will be cut for that term, Wilcox said.

“The only way to maintain quality in the time of budget cuts is to limit student enrollment,” he said.

The money given to USF from the state proves that the state has an interest in higher education, Wilcox said. However, the lack of tuition money holds the University back, as in-state students’ rates are comparatively inexpensive and the high out-of-state rates discourage students from around the country, he said.

Even with a lack of students from different states, Florida is dead last in the nation when it comes to student-faculty ratio, with 31 students per faculty member. USF, the No. 2 research school in the state, comes in last when it comes to research space. A hold on enrollment may help address these issues, Wilcox said.

“If we’re wise, we will consider all sources as we sustain and position ourselves for the future,” he said.

Laurence Branch, a professor in the College of Health and vice president of the Faculty Senate, said faculty members are already struggling without the presence of this recent budget cut.

“I’m pleading with you … we have absolutely nothing at all comprehensible to what we should have,” he said.

Emmanuel Donchin, the chair of the psychology department, said this cut would compromise the education value of the University.

“You cannot maintain quality with a 15-percent budget cut,” he said.

The Executive Committee of Faculty Senate also discussed the new plus/minus grading system and an online course evaluation system. They recommended leaving the grading policy as it is – so that an A+ will have the same impact on a student’s GPA as an A – and endorsing Student Government’s (SG) proposal to make course evaluations available online instead of having to request the printed versions in the library. The committee recommended the evaluations become available through the Provost’s Web site and not SG’s, however.