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Florida universities face $300 million budget cut

  
  
  

budgetcutFlorida's public universities would lose $300 million under a budget proposal agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators — a plan that likely will spur further tuition increases.

The University of Central Florida, the state's largest university, would lose $52.6 million — the second-largest cut after Florida State University's.

The budget compromise also approves funding for a Polk County branch of the University of South Florida to become a stand-alone university.

Officials at UCF and some other universities already had planned to hike their tuition. But budget cuts next school year likely mean that most schools will pursue the 15 percent maximum increase to help make up the loss.

FSU would lose $65.8 million, an amount determined by a formula that legislators devised this year based partly on the size of each school's budget reserve.

The theory was that schools could use their reserves to help absorb financial losses in a year when the Legislature needed to carve out more than $1 billion to balance a $70 billion state budget. UCF expects to have $125 million in its reserve fund by July 1, UCF spokesman Grant Heston said.

Some university officials argued that the method penalizes institutions that have been more frugal in previous years. Still, universities prefer that option because it avoids permanent cuts to their base funding.

Heston said raising tuition will help but will not cover the loss entirely, partly because a chunk of the money must go toward financial aid for needy students.

Heston also stressed that the proposed cut comes on top of about $100 million that UCF has lost in state funding during the past several years.

UCF would not say how it might deal with cuts next school year, although Heston said that a cut "of this magnitude will, of course, impact our mission."

"There are many factors involved, and we are committed to a thoughtful and thorough review," he said. "Once that is complete, we will have recommendations about how to move forward."

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