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Fewer students will learn less at UF after cuts

TALLAHASSEE — Faced with a nearly $50-million loss in state dollars for the looming budget year, the University of Florida will lay off 138 faculty and staff members; cut undergraduate enrollment by 4,000 students; slash research spending; and eliminate some degree programs and academic departments.

For students, the changes will mean fewer multicultural programs, internships and opportunities to study abroad.

Maintenance and housekeeping hours in the dorms will shrink. Students will likely find longer waits for financial aid and career counseling.

And the enrollment reduction will make it harder than ever to get into what some people already call the "Harvard of Florida."

UF president Bernie Machen announced the dramatic cutbacks Monday, just a few days after lawmakers ended their annual session by passing an anemic $66.2-billion state budget.

That's nearly $6-billion less than last session, before the state's economy went into a sort of free fall.

The economic problems forced lawmakers to cut UF's current budget by $22-million. Another $47-million in cuts take effect at the research institution in the budget year that begins July 1.

"Our priority is to protect the quality of education at the University of Florida," Machen said. "But clearly, we cannot take reductions this large without making difficult choices."

Administrators, as in other public universities across Florida, already have frozen freshman enrollment and left faculty and staff positions vacant.

But the decisions announced Monday are among the toughest made so far, Machen said.

"We're running out of options, with the money we've lost," he said.

The cuts will:

• Eliminate about 430 faculty and staff positions (some 290 are now vacant). It means laying off 118 staffers and 20 nontenured faculty members, including 16 faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

• Cut undergraduate enrollment by 4,000 slots over four years, including 1,000 transfer seats already cut.

• Reduce or eliminate some degrees and courses, including Ph.D. programs in philosophy and German, a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's degree education program in foreign language. The law school will take fewer students due to a $1.2-million loss. Students now enrolled in degree programs slated for elimination can complete their degrees.

• Reduce and reorganize departments within the colleges of education, liberal arts and sciences, design, construction and planning, and in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

• Decrease research funding in the Water Institute, McKnight Brain Institute and the Center for Latin American Studies, among others.

Machen said his greatest concern moving forward is faculty flight. "We're in the second year with no raises (from the state)," he said.

Monday's announcement from Machen won't be the last among higher education leaders in this state.

The University of South Florida's Tampa campus will have to serve its 40,000 students with about $34-million less in state money.

Already, USF has frozen $13-million in jobs — about 100 faculty positions and 50 staff positions. Provost Ralph Wilcox warns that classes will be larger and that student services might be cut.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Fewer students will learn less at UF after cuts 05/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 6:08pm]

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