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Monday, May 27, 2024

Faced with a growing state population and dwindling funding for higher education, a group that promotes college access for minorities called for a statewide summit of all higher education policymakers to address enrollment.

In its report, Engaging Latino, African American and other Communities for Education, known as ENLACE Florida, concluded that 40,000 to 60,000 students could be turned away from state universities in the next five years if state budget woes continue.

Paul Dosal, ENLACE executive director and the report's author, said a meeting among legislators, university presidents, the governor and other policymakers would be the best way to solve the problem.

But one UF official doesn't think a meeting is the answer.

"We have the worst student-faculty ratio in the nation, and I don't think we need another summit or another report to tell us that," Provost Janie Fouke said.

Raising tuition would be a better solution than holding the proposed statewide conference, she said.

An increase in tuition would get the State University System out of the habit of enrolling more students than it can pay for, she said.

"We're on a trend that scares me," she said.

Florida's student-faculty ratio, which at 31 to 1 is six points higher than the national average, prompted Florida's Board of Governors to raise tuition by 8 percent and consider limiting enrollment next year. At its meeting last month, the board advised state universities to adjust their admissions policies in case the state Legislature allots less money per student.

There are currently 300,000 students enrolled in Florida's 11 public universities. Dosal said the State University System would have room for 340,000 students if enrollment continued to grow at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, as it has the past 10 years.

But if the board freezes enrollment, the system would remain at its current capacity, which means it would turn away 40,000 potential students, he said.

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