State and University Budget
Bernie Machen, President
Please allow me to update you on our budget situation now that the Florida Legislature has approved a reduced budget plan for the upcoming year.
While Gov. Charlie Crist must sign off on the plan before it goes into effect, I want you to be aware of the budget’s impact on the University of Florida and what it means looking forward.
The House and Senate on Friday cut $22.1 million in recurring state funds from UF’s budget. It is a smaller cut than we anticipated but remains a significant amount.
With everyone’s help during the summer, we were prepared, having tightened our belts to reduce our spending by $26.9 million. I am pleased we were able to do it with minimal effect to our students or our educational programs.
Even leaner years are forecast ahead for the state. We have no way of knowing what this university could be facing in just a few months when the Legislature reconvenes in regular session.
Because of this uncertainty, I want to help insulate us from possible tough times ahead. As such, the $4.8 million that we trimmed in excess of the newly approved budget will be set aside for now. At some point, the money will be reinvested in the university, though exactly what the money will be used for has yet to be determined.
The severity of UF’s budget cuts were partially offset with the approval of some one-time funds as well as a 5 percent tuition increase. Students will pay about $3.68 more per credit hour beginning in January. Some of this new revenue will be earmarked for need-based aid, a critical part of our ongoing effort to recruit students who are the first in their families to attend college.
The budget bill also calls for tuition to rise each fall according to the consumer price index. And lawmakers approved a tool to help us keep up with our growing computer and other high-tech needs. Universities have been authorized to charge students a technology fee of up to 5 percent per credit hour beginning in the Fall 2009.
As you may know, the Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 11 public universities, is seeking clarification from the courts on the question of whether the Legislature or the Board has the authority to set tuition and fees.
For our part, the Cost Reduction and Efficiency Task Force has been working for the past month or so with Huron Consulting to identify ways to trim costs and raise revenue. I anticipate sharing with you the group’s first round of suggestions in the coming weeks.
This has been a challenging time for all of us. I appreciate your effort and cooperation.