Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Sticker Shock

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Sticker Shock

Article excerpt

State funding cuts lead to sharp tuition hikes at Florida colleges.

For rising University of Florida sophomore Carlos Garcia, the news is sobering: His tuition bill will be 15 percent higher this fall.

"This very much affects me," says Garcia, 18, who is majoring in pre-med and biology.

Going to school partly with money he earned from a retail job, Garcia has hardly been a spendthrift. But now, confronting a tuition bill that could exceed $6,000, Garcia is even more concerned about his immediate financial fortunes.

"It means that everything is going to be tougher for me than I thought when I first got here," says Garcia.

The tuition increase at UF - one of 11 public universities in Florida to win the approval of the state's Board of Governors to tack a "tuition differential" of 7 percent onto an 8 percent increase already approved by the state legislature - comes in response to an unprecedented reduction of some $340 million in state spending for higher education.

"We've seen other cuts in the past," observes Michael Brawer, CEO of the Association of Florida Colleges. "But this one has been particularly tough."

Continues Brawer: "We are now in an environment where everything is being viewed with a jaundiced eye and every single dollar is closely scrutinized."

The total state education cut, including K-12 spending, proposed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott amounted to more than $4.6 billion. The governor has argued that the funding reductions were necessary in the face of a more than $4 billion budget deficit he inherited.

"The governor promised to create more jobs in the private sector in order to get our economy back on track," notes Scott spokesman Lane Wright.

"But to do that he has had to make tough choices like balancing the budget in order to create a good environment to grow businesses," Wright continues.

Florida's budget woes have been framed within the larger context of the national recession, yet Florida's heady real estate market was hit particularly hard.

"When something as big as a state's entire real estate market either slows down or stops altogether, it's going to create big problems," notes Paul Lingenfelter, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers. "And that's exactly what has happened in Florida."

Florida's top-heavy housing market - with thousands of homes mortgaged above their asking price - has resulted in the highest mortgage deUnquency rates in the nation.

To make matters worse, most of the more than $11 billion in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Florida received has been spent.

To compensate for the absence of new stimulus dollars, Scott has emphasized reducing expenditures and included in his proposal a reduction of more than $217 million in state university education and research spending, as well as $123 million less for Florida's state colleges and vocational programs.

At Miami Dade College, overall state funding has fallen by just over 27 percent. "All capital outlay funding was vetoed by the governor," notes Dr. Rolando Montoya, the provost of Miami Dade College, where $6.7 million in state money for the renovation of the school's Hialeah campus was pulled along with $3.6 million for general college-wide renovation and remodeling purposes.

"The college continues doing more with less," says Montoya, adding that the school is trying to keep the budget cuts "out of the classroom, as best as possible."

Despite such chaUenges, things could be worse, contends Brawer of the AFC, which represents Florida's 28 community coUeges. …

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