State budget cuts to have no impact on majors

Budget shortfalls prompted some universities to cut back and compensate for less funding. However, that’s not the case at USF.

Florida State University (FSU) cut 10 academic programs and 62 faculty members, according to an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education.

“They cut more than one (program) and they received considerable national negative publicity for doing so,” said Dwayne Smith, USF senior vice provost.

The opposite is true for USF, though the state cut $28.6 million in general revenue funding — about half of the University’s 2009-10 fiscal year budget. The Florida Legislature has cut $88 million to the entire USF system since 2007-08.

Yet, USF continues to add programs.

This academic year, additions include the School of Global Sustainability, a new major within the College of Business Administration (COBA) and a new pharmacy school at USF Polytechnic in Lakeland.

“We’ve added those programs with the thought in mind that there were still some cuts coming, so we built those programs in so they would be part of the larger budget picture,” Smith said. “And that reflects that even though we’re in this kind of time, the administration is still dedicated to trying to move the University forward.”

Moving forward involves making USF a leader in academic programs. Business is the University’s largest degree program in terms of enrollment, with 14,303 students, according to a 2008-09 report.

“USF is building a reputation within Florida as one of the top places to go when seeking a good business program,” said Dean of COBA Robert Forsythe. “We’re trying to do non-traditional things to polish our students’ skills.”

One of those non-traditional things is an improv night held once a month in the Juniper-Poplar residence hall that teaches students living in the “Bulls Business Community” to think quickly and critically.

The next largest degree programs in terms of enrollment are life sciences (9,902) and engineering (6,733), according to the report.

USF’s smallest programs are ethnic studies (266), foreign languages (364) and mathematics programs (436).

Despite those numbers, Smith said that does not mean the University will follow the example of other schools and cut programs.

“Our president is firmly committed to retaining the current programs that we have at (USF) … sometimes, that value is not necessarily just captured in quantifiable numbers,” he said. “I think that there can be a real aesthetic contribution that programs can make to the life of the University and are really worthy of preserving.”

The way USF has managed its budget, he said, has allowed the school to retain all of its current programs.

Rather than cutting funds from academic programs, the University chose non-academic areas, including business offices, human resources and groundskeeping, he said.

“There have been some negative impacts of that. We’ve gotten complaints that some of our buildings are not as well kept as they used to be and they’re not, and we don’t have as many people working as we used to,” Smith said. “But the real emphasis has been on preserving as much of the academic budget as we possibly could and that really reflects on our dedication to the students.”