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Editorial: Out-of-state students may increase universities’ funds

The State University System (SUS) has been in a budget crunch for quite some time.

Since Gov. Charlie Crist announced he would reduce taxes, universities across Florida have scrounged for ways to increase funding, or to at least keep the system running without too many cutbacks.

As universities scramble for ways to increase revenue without making tuition beyond the reach of students, a member of the Board of Governors (BOG) — the group that runs the SUS — presented a refreshing idea to boost revenue at the BOG’s meeting Thursday.

Board member Charles B. Edwards proposed extending the 10 percent cap on out-of-state student enrollment — which restricts out-of-state students from making up more than 10 percent of the student body — for Florida state universities.

At a maximum, the bigger state universities are at about 6 percent of the 10. USF stands at around 5.5 percent, said Academic Affairs spokeswoman Jacqui Cash.

The proposed increase would raise the cap from 10 to 25 percent.

Given the crisis the SUS finds itself in, it’s hard not to consider this move a possible solution.

Some may argue that in-state students will have problems getting into universities if more out-of-state students are admitted, but there is no evidence thus far that in-state students have problems accessing Florida’s universities — if they have the required grades and SAT scores, that is. It is true that they may not get into the school of their choice, but there are 11 state universities from which to choose. In addition, it is not clear that the cap affects in-state students since none of the universities is at its 10 percent limit.

While increasing this cap may not have an immediate impact, in time, as the universities grow, the benefits of increased revenue can help by opening up more classes. In-state students at USF pay $3,990 per full-time semester, while out-of-state students pay $16,710 for the same.

The long-term results seem nothing but beneficial to both in-state and out-of-state students alike.

While this may not be the cure for the SUS’ budgetary ills, it could be a bandage for its predicament, since the BOG doesn’t have the authority to determine universities’ budgets or the cost of tuition.