Legislative budget includes increases in USF funding, tuition
As USF awaits the governor’s pen on the annual state appropriations budget, some officials are breathing sighs of relief as the legislative season that was far less tumultuous than the last comes to an end.
The budget, which is currently under review by Gov. Rick Scott, proposes to restore the $300 million cut from the State University System last year — about $45 million restored to the USF System — in addition to including $50 million to be split between the 12 public universities based on performance metrics, yet to be determined. The new budget could also include a 3 percent base tuition increase.
Though Scott has been a vocal opponent of tuition increases since the beginning of the legislative season, the House and Senate approved the budget with a three percent increase. Last year, tuition was increased by 15 percent.
While Assistant Vice President for Governmental Relations Mark Walsh said the university’s first preference is not to have financial burdens on student increase, the increase would provide USF with an approximate additional $3 million. The increases would amount to about $3.10 per credit hour, or about an extra $93 per year for a student taking 30 credit hours.
Jackie Schutz, Scott’s press secretary, said in an email statement to The Oracle the governor remains against the increases.
“The Governor does not support any tuition increase,” she said in the email. “We are reviewing the budget.”
But Walsh said the way the appropriations bill is written may make it difficult for the governor to veto the increases because it is written as a total amount in dollars and vetoing it could pose legal challenges for universities as to how they have the authority to charge tuition in its absence.
Even if Scott vetoes the increase to base tuition, USF’s Board of Trustees has the authority to request differential tuition increases to be approved by the Board of Governors.
Walsh said though Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds have not been available to universities in recent years, capital funding did come in the form of through Education and General Revenue (E&G) sources.
The budget includes $12.5 million in capital funding for the Heart Health Institute, $5 million for the new College of Business facility at USF St. Pete and $3.5 million for the completion of the Interdisciplinary Sciences building.
Scott has 15 business days to sign the bill from the time he received it.