It's official: USF asking for 11 percent hike
In a move that the chair of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees said should "send a message" to the state Legislature, USF trustees voted to only ask for an 11 percent tuition hike for the upcoming school year.
Under state law, the trustees could have asked for anything up to 15 percent. But, after consultation with students, said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, the university determined they could get by with less.
Only one trustee, faculty representative Liz Bird, voted no, saying that she thought asking for anything less than the maximum was "shooting ourselves in the foot."
The hike still needs approval by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system and meets next week. USF is only one of two universities out of the 11 (soon to be 12) that's asking for less than the full increase. The University of Florida voted last week to only ask for a 9 percent hike.
The requests come at a time when state funding is about to drop by $300 million across the system this year alone. USF's share of that is about $50 million. Added to previous cuts, USF's state funding has now been cut about one-third since 2007, or by more than $120 million.
In that time period, USF and other universities have had to use tuition hikes to help fill the gap, but even at 15 percent each year for the past four years, the extra revenue hasn't come close to covering it.
But that wasn't really the intention when extra tuition hikes, known as "tuition differential," were approved in 2008, noted USF President Judy Genshaft. The extra money was supposed to literally "differentiate" universities, helping them enhance undergraduate education.
Instead, students have paid more but gotten less in return.
Maybe it's time the state Legislature contends with that fact, said John Ramil, chair of the USF board.
"We are giving our state government cover for this by continuing to raise tuition," Ramil said. "While one message to the Legislature is that we left money on the table, the other message to the Legislature is, 'We're not going to keep covering for you. You need to fix the bottom line. That's the line that's getting us in trouble.
"With 11 percent," said Ramil, "that's the message."