USF students concerned budget cuts will mean tuition hikes

5:20 AM, Mar 6, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - A deal has been reached in the Bulls Budget Battle. Originally State Senator JD Alexander wanted to cut 58 percent of USF's revenue or 79-million dollars.

But in a deal the House and Senate made in Tallahassee on Monday now that number is estimated to be around 21 percent or 36-million dollars.

Also Alexander wanted to take away 6-million from the College of Pharmacy but now all of that  has been restored. And initially USF was going to have to absorb 16 million dollars in costs for faculty and staff at USF USF Polytechnic but under this new deal that won't happen.

Representative Will Weatherford from Wesley Chapel was one of the key players in the agreement. He told 10 News by phone, "I think today was a huge win for USF and a great win for the Tampa Bay area. 

Representative Weatherford adds, "There was some funding that allowed us to start the design and construction of the cardiovascular institute at USF so all in all USF had a great day today and not only were they not treated unfairly they actually won."

But the Vice President of Communications at USF paints a slightly different picture. Michael Hoad is the Vice President of Communications at USF. He says, "This is good news and bad news. The good news is USF was treated fairly - in earlier proposals we were not treated fairly."

Hoad points to the deal that was worked out for the College of Pharmacy. He says, "It was very important to us to get full funding for our college of Pharmacy...which originally was at 0 then at 3 million now at it's full 6 million. Our College of Pharmacy is brand new. We have 50 new students and we hope to get 50 or a little more than that next year."

But Hoad adds,  "The bad news is this is a big cut for higher education in the state of Florida." The budget that the House and the Senate agreed on represents 300 million dollars in proposed budget cuts among the state's 11 universities.

10 News wanted to know whether USF will raise tuition for a fifth straight year to make up the difference in their cuts. Hoad says, "It makes me feel and I hate to say it - It makes me feel like a parent and you don't want to show your children your pain. The first priority is to preserve quality education for students. But eventually you have to worry that it will hurt education."

Khalid Hassouneh is the Student Government Senate President at USF. He says his initial reaction is that he's glad there's a deal but he's concerned that so much is being cut from higher education, not only from USF, but from the entire system.

Hassouneh says there's no investment in higher education in Florida and each year tuition goes up and students pay more but get nothing more for it.

Meanwhile students at USF'S Polytechnic campus in Lakeland are worried as their school is now set to go independent on July first. It will be the state's 12th university.

Hoad says,  "the agreement so far is a five year transition which is a nice orderly transition to the new university which means the students in Lakeland can finish their USF degrees in Lakeland."

Weatherford says now there's money to fund that transition. "We got 10 million dollars to help provide for the teach out of Polytechnic University - the USF students that are in Lakeland right."

The budget battle isn't quite over yet. The House and the Senate have a cooling off period  then they'll vote on the proposed budget on Friday. The final decision though will be up to Governor Rick Scott.


Tammie Fields, 10 News

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