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Sunday, March 03, 2024

Students could lose ,600 each of state funding, which would normally cover costs of their universities? academic budget, if the Florida Legislature endorses Gov. Charlie Crist?s proposed budget cuts.

Because of a recent tax-revenue shortfall, Crist proposed a 6.2 percent cut from the State University System?s funding, according to a press release from the Board of Governors, the highest governing body for Florida?s university system.

Crist proposed a 3.6 percent cut, ,980 million, from the overall state budget.

Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the Board of Governors, said the board would appeal to the state Legislature for a compromise on Crist?s recommended cuts.

The Legislature will make the final decision.

"We?re really not trying to rough up the governor," Edmonds said. "We had expected to carry part of the burden, but we were surprised and disappointed to see we were carrying a bigger burden than others."

Anthony De Luise, spokesman for the governor?s office, said Crist cut heavily from state universities because he?s focused on reserving money for kindergarten through 12th-grade classes.

De Luise said state university administrators have assured Crist they could keep enrollment strong even with budget cuts.

UF Provost Janie Fouke said UF?s only choice is to continue finding ways to reduce spending for the upcoming years.

"Crist?s proposals are more harsh than we had been led to believe," Fouke said.

As for the Tuition Differential Program, Fouke said it?s only a start.

The program will incrementally raise tuition 40 percent over four years, so long as it doesn?t exceed 15 percent per year. It will go into effect fall 2008.

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UF?s previously planned ,30 million to ,34 million cuts are already double the amount of the projected funds that will come from the program, Fouke said, adding it will generate about ,17 million.

Edmonds called the program a great achievement, but he said it would probably leave universities right where they started.

"We could just be taking two steps forward and two steps back," he said. "It could be that all we?re doing is treading water."

Edmonds said the board fully understands that cuts will have to be made.

However, he said, the Legislature has historically not fully supported state universities. As a result, Florida universities have the worst student-faculty ratios in the country.

"It really has a direct correlation to the quality of education you receive," Edmonds said. "We?re hoping the government will become an ally."

Edmonds said right now, tuition only covers about one-fourth of students? education costs, and the state should cover the rest.

That?s what makes it a public university, he said.

"You and the state are supposed to be partners in your education," Edmonds said. "Your partner just pulled out ,600."

Because of these changing trends, Fouke confirmed that universities might have to depend more heavily on tuition than state support to fund education in the future.

"We live in interesting times," she said.

Some of Crist?s suggestions include cutting the ,5 million recently given to UF to hire 15 more faculty members.

Steve Orlando, UF spokesman, said UF would continue with the hiring process regardless of the proposed nix.

Crist also recommends a ,34 million cut from the Courtelis matching funds program, which matches private donations with state money for university construction.

Edmonds said cutting the matching program would be counterproductive because construction is a major positive for universities, and much of that money comes from private donors.

He said the Board of Governors believes the proposal was a mistake that will hopefully be fixed soon.

De Luise said he could not confirm whether the proposal was correct.

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