Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

College Budgets Hit Hard; Schools Scramble to Find Money

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

College Budgets Hit Hard; Schools Scramble to Find Money

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Kormanik, Times-Union staff writer

The day after Gov. Jeb Bush slashed $111.5 million in funding for universities, the jockeying began to insert money for omitted projects and to tweak proposals that may hit students' wallets too hard.

Some top concerns include building projects, tuition increases and the Bright Futures scholarship program.

At the University of North Florida, the priority is securing $10 million to replace a building contaminated with mold, interim President David Kline said.

The university asked the state to pay for a new building after tests found mold in walls of Building 11. Officials since have closed the second floor and relocated professors from the social sciences building. But the fund for construction projects was cut in half, and Bush allotted money only to continue projects under way.

Kline still believes UNF will get state money for the project in the coming months, when the Legislature will hammer out the final budget.

"People will see its significance," he predicted.

Bush acknowledged universities will face budget problems in the coming year.

"This is going to be a tough year for our universities and community colleges," Bush said.

But he said Florida's higher education system is "still the best deal in the country" for families.

Universities had sought tuition hikes as a way to recoup the costs of diminished state support. Bush authorized a 7.5 percent in-state tuition hike and would let local boards of trustees increase tuition an extra 5 percent. Trustees have total freedom over out-of-state tuition.

State Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, criticized tuition hikes, saying college needs to stay affordable for all families.

"We have one of the better programs for kids and families in Florida," said Wise, a member of the Senate education committee. …

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