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USF to reduce budget by another 5 percent

A projected $17-million cut in state funding has prompted University administrators to hire fewer tenure-track faculty and advisers and shut down the campus over winter break.

Though the University cut 15 percent last semester, statewide budget shortfalls may require an additional 5 percent cut. This means USF would have reduced its budget from by a total of 20 percent from last spring to July 2009 — leaving the University with a potential loss of nearly $70 million in state funding for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, Provost Ralph Wilcox said.

That’s because Florida is experiencing a $2.3 billion revenue shortfall, meaning the amount of money entering the state’s coffers isn’t keeping pace with budget allocations made last spring, Wilcox said.

Earlier this year, the state slashed the University’s budget by 10.6 percent. Anticipating future cuts, USF reduced its budget even further, by 15 percent. This cut went into effect for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Because USF is getting less recurring money — the funds used to pay tenured faculty members — from the state, the University is turning to one-time funds to pay for full-time instructors. These instructors, unlike tenured faculty, can be paid with what’s called nonrecurring money.

Hiring full-time instructors instead of tenured faculty, then, saves recurring funds, Wilcox said. The problem, though, is that once nonrecurring funds are spent, there’s no guarantee that more will be available. This means that the future potential to pay for full-time instructors is uncertain.

“It’s going to take us a long time to recover from the reduction from last year, this year and what’s to come,” Wilcox said.

Budget cuts could prompt larger class sizes and fewer advisers, he said.

To save on staffing, utilities and lighting costs, the University will also be closed during winter break, Wilcox said.

“We’re not going to save a lot on heating or air conditioning, but we may save some on lighting because buildings will be closed and there will be limited access for students, staff and faculty,” Wilcox said. “It’s largely the staff that won’t be coming in that will give us savings.”

Wilcox and Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said the University is not planning on cutting majors to contend with budget cuts.

“We must balance quality with meeting students’ needs,” Wilcox said.

Planning, worry continues amid cuts
Coping with cuts is hard because so much is determined at the state level, said Jacquie Cash, communications and marketing manager for the Provost’s Office. Planning, she said, is key.

“A lot of what we do is out of our hands, so we have to be creative and strategic when we make decisions about budgeting,” she said.

Smith said the University is trying to plan for even harder times.

“This has been a pretty substantial setback,” he said.

Tuition increase may not mitigate money problems
Wilcox doesn’t expect the recently approved tuition increase to soothe budgetary woes.

For the past decade, it has cost USF an average of $10,500 to educate one student per year, he said. That adds up to about $483 million for an institution of about 46,000 students.

This money comes partially from state investment, and the rest is what Wilcox called “personal investment,” or a combination of state appropriations and student-paid tuition.

As the amount of state revenue goes down, tuition must increase to account for the difference — which is why Gov. Charlie Crist supports a plan to allow 11 state institutions to increase their tuition by 15 percent.

“This is important to point out because despite tuition increases, which might generate $10 million, we cannot fill the hole,” Wilcox said.

The key, he said, is to maintain the $10,500 amount, which will happen as long as the newly elected state Legislature maintains the level of state appropriations.