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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

UF administrators are planning extra budget cuts to fund UF programs, UF President Bernie Machen said.

Machen announced at a Friday meeting of UF's Board of Trustees that UF's planned ,34 million cut is about ,9 million more than the 4 percent cut mandated by Gov. Charlie Crist.

A 4 percent cut from UF's budget of ,4.377 billion would be about ,26.9 million, Machen said.

Money from extra cuts will fund several UF programs and salary raises for faculty.

The Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, which funds tuition for students who are the first members of their families to attend college, will receive ,3 million from UF, Machen said.

The Florida Legislature formerly paid for half of those costs, but it recently cut funding for the program from its budget. Now, UF will have to foot the whole bill.

Machen also said faculty members promoted during the summer would get the pay increases they were promised. The raises will require a cut of ,1.3 million.

Another ,1.7 million would be used for utility expenses, and ,1.1 million will go toward graduate student health care.

The total reduction will be about ,34 million.

"We believe this to be a realistic number," Machen said at the meeting. "I don't think you need to worry that we're going to offer up more than we have to."

Crossing her fingers, UF Provost Janie Fouke said everyone is hoping the ,34 million will be the extent of the cuts.

It could be more or it could be less, Fouke added, saying no one would know the exact amount until the Legislature meets in October.

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In addition to the initial 4 percent cut, Crist proposed slashes of about ,600 per student in the State University System.

Part of that would take back the ,5 million promised to UF for 15 new faculty hires.

UF administrators have already begun advertising for five of those positions and said they would not stop until the Legislature makes its final decision.

During the meeting Friday, Machen said he hopes the Legislature recognizes the huge impact UF has on the state's economy.

If UF were a business, it would be the 16th largest business in the state, he said. That's bigger than Outback Steakhouse, he added.

Machen said UF's Bureau of Economic Business Research estimated that UF contributes more than ,6 million to Florida's economy.

Shands at UF provides about 25,000 jobs, he said, which is about a quarter of North Florida's job market.

Machen said UF impacts about 53 percent of jobs in this region

"We are an economic engine in the truest sense," he said, adding that cutting heavily from UF would be detrimental for the "future of the state."

Dianna Morgan, chairwoman of the board, said UF's financial future may seem gloomy, but she sees the budget cuts as opportunities for improvement.

Morgan said for the first time, the State University System is closely examining how much funding should come from students' tuition and how much should come from the state.

"The optimist in me really does see a silver lining even in these difficult times," Morgan said.

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