BOT finds middle ground with 11 percent increase

The USF Board of Trustees (BOT) decision to raise tuition differentials by 11 percent is just enough to cover university needs, while not overburdening students with the maximum allowable 15 percent increase.

The BOT found a middle ground that demonstrates the universitys frustrations with the increasingly persistent state budget cuts, yet one that permits enough of a revenue source to continue to meet the educational standards of the student population.

For students, the 11 percent increase means about $17 more per credit hour. This amounts to about $530 more for a full-time, 30-credit academic year, an amount more reassuring than the approximate $700 overall increase would have been with a full 15 percent tuition hike.

At the same time, it is not too much to ask for the sake of maintaining faculty and education quality.

The 11 percent differential increase is factored in with base tuition costs and fees, which determines the actual amount that students pay only nine percent higher than the tuition of last year.

But some are worried about the repercussions of the decrease on quality of education.

USF Trustee and faculty member Elizabeth Bird, who was the only one of the 11 of board members to vote no on the proposal, said that anything less than a 15 percent increase is shooting ourselves in the foot.

Though she is not alone in believing the university is at a tipping point, a maximum increase seems to be too much for students. Moreover, compliance with a maximum increase is a surrender to the ever-increasing state budget cuts for education.

As student body president Brian Goff said to The Oracle, increasing tuition by the full 15 percent means sending the message that the university is prepared to raise tuition to make up for budget cuts.

With the $39.1 million cut to the Tampa campus and the almost $50 million across the USF system, the $4 million lost by asking for 11 percent rather than 15 percent is not worth student woes.

The recent $300 million cut to the state university system approved by Gov. Rick Scott was followed by a clear message that he opposed higher tuition. Consequently, base tuition was not increased and each university is left to fend for itself using differential tuition increases. All universities aside from UF and now USF have requested the full 15 percent increase.

If increasing tuition is not the way to go, it remains unclear what the universities source for maintaining an academic system that is conducive to the highest level of education will be. Lawmakers have provided no adequate reply.

The university will need to restructure and reorganize, as Provost Ralph Wilcox recognized.

Nonetheless, the BOT has been able to propose a balanced increase that serves its needs and the needs of its students, in spite of the dwindling revenue from the state.