Board of Trustees decision lacks transparency, support

The USF Board of Trustees (BOT) held a special meeting Monday, cementing a decision to increase undergraduate in-state tuition by 1.7 percent, pursuant to a 2007 law that requires that State University System schools increase tuition in accordance with the national inflation rate.

The conference call decision came days before members of the BOT and USF administration were set to meet with the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) to discuss USF policies and finalize the school’s 2013-14 budget, including all tuition and fee changes.

But the BOT’s timing is particularly dubious, as it announced the meeting almost a month after Fla. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of the proposed 3 percent tuition hike, which was embedded in the 2013-14 Florida budget.  

Though USF administrators stated they would not seek an increase in differential tuition despite the governor’s veto, the BOT voted Monday to raise tuition according to a 2007 law which states, “the resident undergraduate tuition per credit hour shall increase at the beginning of each fall semester at a rate equal to inflation, unless otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act.” 

Of the 12-member board, only two voted against the measure.

Though the meeting itself was accessible to the public and press organizations, as stipulated by the Florida Sunshine Law, the 4:30 p.m. conference call the day prior to the BOG meeting received little attention.

Florida law requires “reasonable notice” to be given prior to any meetings concerning public affairs, emphasizing that “special meetings should have at least 24 hours reasonable notice to the public.” 

USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez said the meeting had been properly announced. However, while it may have appeared on the BOT’s meeting calendar and the general USF calendar, no special attention was drawn to the last-minute meeting, and no major local media outlets listened in on the call.

In the wake of decade of staggering tuition hikes and perpetual declines in state funding to the USF System, the BOT’s eleventh-hour meeting reeks of unpopular policy decisions and a lack of transparency. It represents the growing schism between the need to remain academically competitive and the desire of the BOT to further an agenda that will not likely parallel the sentiment of the student body.