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Thursday, May 23, 2024

UF President Bernie Machen continued to paint a bleak picture of the university's finances Thursday, telling a Faculty Senate committee that tuition is too low and funding for research has fallen off.

And, oh yeah, he has to cut $16 million from the university's budget by July.

"The only good news I can tell you is fundraising continues at record levels," Machen told members of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, citing December as UF's biggest month for donations ever.

But that was just about the only good news.

With the looming cuts, he was asked how they would affect the fall's freshman class.

They wouldn't, he said.

The roughly 28,000 students who applied to UF will find out Feb. 15 whether they got in, and about 10,000 will be accepted. About 6,600 of those are estimated to enroll in the fall.

But Machen said that number might not sit well with the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 11 public universities.

UF administrators received an e-mail Wednesday from the board asking them to trim the incoming class, he said.

"This is ridiculous," Machen said of the request to cut the class size so close to the date when acceptance letters are sent.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Board of Governors spokesman Bill Edmonds said the state's public universities have only been given target sizes for the incoming fall classes.

When the Legislature lays out its budget in March, the universities will be given mandates for class sizes, Edmonds said. At a January meeting, the board voted to take over control of enrollment numbers.

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Given the fiscal climate and the state's already-low student-faculty ratio, he said the enrollment caps were necessary. Florida ranks last in student-teacher ratios nationwide.

"If you don't do this adjustment to the enrollment - this reality check - this is going to get worse, not better," Edmonds said.

Machen added that the university has more money woes closer to home. Funding for research has dropped $32 million over the last year, he said. On top of that, he won't be getting any help from Tallahassee, at least as far as tuition is concerned.

"The governor, in his wisdom, has said we don't need a tuition increase," he said.

Starting in the fall, UF - along with Florida State University and the University of South Florida - will be able to raise its in-state tuition up to 15 percent. The three instiutions can raise their tuitions by 40 percent over three years. Machen said, because of the dire straits, UF might have to raise tuition as much as it's allowed.

By July, UF will have to cut an estimated $16 million from its budget, and Machen said it's still not clear where those cuts are going to come from. But he said university officials would know more after Spring Break.

"Enough good news?" Machen jokingly asked.

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