Looser enrollment cap urged for Florida universities

TAMPA — A member of the group that oversees the state university system began urging his colleagues Thursday to reconsider a cap on freshman enrollment, a policy the group approved a little over a year ago.

Charles B. Edwards cited record-breaking attendance at Florida's community colleges — even as the state's public universities continue to limit student access — as a reason for turning the enrollment cap decision over to each university's board of trustees.

"Some of the universities were able to find a 2 percent increase for faculty salaries," Edwards said at a meeting of the Board of Governors hosted by the University of South Florida. "They also might want to make a decision to add 50 additional members to the freshman class."

The proposal prompted a lengthy discussion among board members and university presidents.

Chancellor Mark Rosenberg reminded the group that the cap reflected its "commitment to quality," and said that further reliance on adjuncts and graduate assistants to teach a greater number of students could be a concern to accreditors.

Meanwhile, the board's newest and youngest member offered his perspective as a student at Florida International University.

"It may be something that the boards of trustees would look favorably upon at each institution," said Arthur "A.J." Meyer, who is chairman of the Florida Student Association. "But what it means to me is, I'm going to have more students in my classes."

State universities currently enroll as many students as the Legislature provides money for. In the past, universities admitted more students than the Legislature was willing to fund, then went back and asked for more resources.

That strategy simply doesn't work in tight budget times, said Board of Governors spokesman Bill Edmonds.

Board member Ava Parker, who supported a cap on enrollment when the board discussed it in July 2007, said she now favors expanding access.

Based on current economic conditions, Parker said, she would rather see students in a crowded classroom than not be in a classroom at all.

The board postponed a decision, saying it will consider recommendations from university presidents and discuss the matter further at its November meeting.

Looser enrollment cap urged for Florida universities 09/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 28, 2008 1:40pm]

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