Budget sources shift as state funds dwindle

As state funding for public education continues to diminish, USF is seeing a significant shift in the structure of its budget.

The University is relying even more on its students — and the tuition and fees they pay — to fill cracks left by cuts from legislators in the 2009-10 tentative budget, which hasn’t received Gov. Charlie Crist’s approval but was approved by USF’s Board of Trustees (BoT) on Wednesday.

As of January 2008, 75 percent of USF’s budget was provided by the state and 25 percent was from tuition and student fees. That gap has narrowed to 64 percent in state funds and 36 percent in tuition and fees. This is excluding the federal stimulus package funds the University will receive this year.

“With the continued decline and diminishment of public investment, it’s not going to be too long before all our revenues are coming from tuition,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. “Now, politically, what does that say? Who should the universities listen to? The shift is coming where we’re relying more on our students and their parents.”

The state cut $28.6 million in funding from USF’s budget in the 2009-10 fiscal year, and the BoT seeks to maximize revenue by its approval of a recommendation to increase tuition 15 percent for all in-state undergraduate students, Wilcox said.

On May 1, the state legislature mandated a 7 percent statewide increase in tuition, with the option for schools to increase it another 8 percent.

The BoT approved six other tuition increases as well, as recommended by Wilcox and Associate Provost of Policy Analysis, Planning and Performance Tapas K. Das, bringing the University’s expected revenue to $126.1 million in tuition and student fees — an increase of $16.9 million from the last fiscal year.

USF will receive $171.3 million in state funding, $15.1 million in federal stimulus package funds and $24.2 million in state Lottery money to form the rest of the budget.

The 15 percent increase means a $6.78 hike per credit hour for all undergraduate students who enrolled after July 1, 2007. For those taking 30 credit hours a year, the total increase will be $586.

“We’re becoming more private in a sense, and private universities rely more on, and I hate to use this term, but they rely more on their clients, their customers — their students,” Wilcox said.

Faculty wanted to cut enrollment by 27 percent to make up for the lack of state funds, Wilcox said, but that won’t happen because of the opportunity to take advantage of the tuition increase.

The six other approved recommendations will help expand revenue for the University, Wilcox said.

Recommendation No. 2

USF isn’t just heightening its tuition prices for undergraduates, but also for graduate

All in-state graduate students will see a 10 percent increase in tuition, with the exception of those in the College of Medicine and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs, which are receiving different boosts.

In-state graduate students will pay a total of $7,963 per 24-credit-hour year including fees, an increase of $965 from last year, except for those in the College of Business, who will pay $8,204 per 24-credit-hour year, an increase of $986.

“Last year, we implemented a differential tuition fee for the College of Business because of the cost of delivery there,” Wilcox said. “Faculty salaries are higher, and when a student graduates from the College of Business, they hit the market earning a higher salary than a student from, say, political science or from journalism.”

The reason graduate tuition is not being increased as much as undergraduate tuition is because of where Florida ranks nationally for tuition costs. Even with the 15 percent increase, Florida is the second cheapest state for in-state undergraduates, above Wyoming and just under Louisiana.

In graduate tuition, however, Florida ranks 30th in the country, and USF is the third highest of public universities in the state, behind the University of Florida and Florida International University.

“If you compare the numbers, undergraduate students will pay $586 more with a 15 percent increase, but graduate students will pay almost twice as much with just a 10 percent increase,” Wilcox said. “We’re working off a higher base.”

Recommendation No. 3

College of Nursing in-state graduate students will see a 10 percent increase in tuition as well.

The total cost per year for a student taking 24 credit hours will be $8,204 including fees, an increase of $986.

The main reason for this increase, Wilcox said, is the high demand for these programs, the high cost of delivery and the high employment potential. The average starting salary for a student leaving the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists program is $114,886.

“You can still have high demand in employment for, say, the College of Education and teachers, too, but we wouldn’t push their tuition up because when they go out into an elementary school, they’re starting out at $32,000 per year or so,” Wilcox said.

Recommendation No. 4

The Doctor of Medicine (MD) program is seeing an even larger increase.

Those looking to be Physicians will have to pay $3,021 more per year because  of a 15 percent increase of in-state tuition for the MD program, for a total of $23,159.

Recommendation No. 5

USF is increasing the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program tuition by 5.6 percent because of the high demand and high employment potential of its graduates.

Wilcox said that the program requires so much faculty, equipment, classroom space and lab facilities to operate that its tuition increase is inevitable.

Students in the program will pay annual tuition and fees of $14,751, a $782 hike. The average starting salary for graduates is $60,000-$75,000.

Recommendation No. 6

As of the fall 2009 semester, enrolled out-of-state students will no longer have the option to ever qualify for in-state tuition, Wilcox said.

The previous rule stated that if an out-of-state student accumulated one year of residency in Florida, they would then be eligible for in-state tuition.

“You’d have to come down to Florida, sit out a year of school not enrolled, and then you could get (in-state) residency and enroll,” Wilcox said. “That’s the only way now.”

However, because USF is tightening its grip on in-state regulations, it’s reducing the cost of out-of-state tuition by 15 percent for undergraduate and graduate students. The MD and DPT programs are the only ones that won’t be reduced.

Out-of-state graduate assistants and researchers receiving full fellowships will receive
in-state rates, too. A full fellowship is similar to a scholarship, but is awarded to graduate students with particular academic achievements, or who are involved in research for the University.

Undergraduates will pay $14,768, a decrease of $1,657, and graduate students will pay $19,344, a decrease of $1,515.

Wilcox said USF is reducing its out-of-state tuition to attract more students.

“By reducing our out-of-state undergraduate tuition down below $15,000, we’re getting closer to some of the most expensive states for in-state tuition,” Wilcox said. “The highest states for in-state tuition are closing in on that $15,000 mark, so we’re giving them an incentive to come here instead.”

Recommendation No. 7

Out-of-state students enrolled in the DPT program will see a 10 percent increase in tuition and fees because of the high cost and demand of the program, bringing the total cost to $20,885, an increase of $1,898.

Wilcox said all of these adjustments are intended to make up for the gap that state cuts have created.

“We have to find some funds to replenish those lost by the state just to maintain,” he said.