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USF trustees call emergency tuition meeting

Posted Jun 25, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 25, 2012 at 05:18 PM

USF trustees are holding an emergency conference call this afternoon to discuss whether to appeal the state Board of Governors decision on tuition last week.

The board approved USF’s request for an 11 percent increase, which raises questions about why they might appeal.

What some could say is that they had planned to ask for a 15-percent hike, but scaled it back because the Board of Governors had warned they weren’t going to go that high.

As it turned out, in a meeting that bordered on the chaotic at times, the board ended up granting four universities their 15-percent requests.

One board member suggested that some of the universities got what they asked for simply because of when their request came up on the agenda.

For each of the previous three years, all 11 state universities have increased tuition by 15 percent. It’s been part of a plan to bring Florida public university tuition up to the national average; it ranks at 45th now.

State lawmakers imposed a $300 million cut on the universities this year, with the assumption that they would all boost tuition by 15 percent.

But this year Gov. Rick Scott pressed hard to discourage tuition increases.

The universities pushed back with the argument that five straight years of increases had cut them to the bone. The tuition hikes made up for some, but not nearly all, of the cuts.

Florida Gulf Coast University’s Board of Trustees decided this morning to appeal the Board of Governors decision.

It had asked for 14 percent and was granted 12 percent.

To read more about tuition and the appeal process, you can go here.


USF, Chinese researchers say tai chi can give you a bigger brain

Posted Jun 20, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 20, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Here’s a recipe for brain health. A nice quiet round of tai chi followed by a stimulating discussion.

Sounds too easy, but researchers from USF and Fudan University in Shanghai published the evidence in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease yesterday.

It’s more validation of the “use it or lose it” admonition, James Mortimer, epidemiology professor at the USF College of Public Health, said in a USF News release.

What’s nice and new about this study is that it showed that you don’t have to pound on a treadmill everyday to see results. Not that tai chi’s easy, but it is easier on the knees.

The researchers in the study divided a group of 120 people into four groups. And for about 10 months, one did tai chi, another met for discussion, another group walked and another didn’t do anything.

You can find the details here.

And the results? The people who did tai chi and participated in regular, lively discussion groups actually increased their brain size and performed better on tests of memory and thinking.

The cognitive improvement was the greatest in the tai chiers.

Walking didn’t have much of an effect on either brain size or thinking.

The brains of the participants who did nothing shrank, as the brains of older people tend to do as their ability to think declines.

As always, there’s more to be learned about this. Researchers have seen that aerobic exercise is associated with an in increase in brain growth factors, Mortimer said.

It’s not clear from this whether the non-aerobic tai chi does the same. But someone is surely working on it.

Think your tuition is high?

Posted Jun 15, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 17, 2012 at 08:46 AM

USF trustees approved an 11 percent tuition increase yesterday for in-state undergrads.

But what about everyone else?

Their costs aren’t going up as much, but they’re already paying their share.

- Out-of-state students will see an 8 percent increase in the fee that’s tacked on to their tuition, which will bring their annual bill up to $16,257.

- Florida grad students will be charged an additional 8 percent in tuition, for a total of $10,414, including fees.

- In-state grad students in business and engineering will have to pay even more, $11,277.

- Tuition and fees will jump to $20,603 for out-of-state grad students.

- Med students from outside Florida are getting sort of a break. Their tuition is rising by 8 percent but the out-of-state fee is going down 10 percent. The total: $54,951 a year.

- In-state med student tuition and fees will rise to $33,761.

You can check out the USF staff proposal here. Everything was approved yesterday.

The 11 percent in-state undergrad hike needs the approval of the state Board of Governors, which meets next week. You can find that agenda here.

USF trustees approve tuition hike, 11 percent instead of 15 percent

Posted Jun 14, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 14, 2012 at 12:18 PM

USF trustees have approved an 11 percent undergraduate tuition increase, less than the 15 percent proposed earlier.

It means that USF will have $4 million less than expected, after suffering a $50 million cut from the Legislature.

State lawmakers proposed no tuition hike, but a law passed five years ago gives the universities the option to raise tuition up to 15 percent. State lawmakers assumed when they cut the universities this year that they would pass a 15 percent increase.

Florida’s state university tuition is already near the bottom nationally. USF’s is below all other research universities nationwide.

Some trustees protested the proposed 11 percent as being too small.

USF is already on the “tipping point” of losing its quality edge, said trustee Elizabeth Bird, the faculty representative on the board.

“It’s time we stood up to the politicians and said this is what we need.”

But Provost Ralph Wilcox said after discussions with students, staff decided the burden of 15 percent was too great.

Trustee Brian Lamb said that the staff had taken a hard look at what it could justify from the ground up, and that figure was 11 percent.

Bird continued to protest, saying that USF’s budget was built around the assumption of a 15 percent increase.

Gov. Rick Scott has made it clear that he does not want a tuition increase, even though the university budgets were cut by $300 million this year.

The Board of Governors, most appointed by the governor, has also put out the message that it will be taking a hard look a tuition proposals when the board meets next week.

All the other state universities have proposed a 15 percent increase, except for the University of Florida, which is asking for only a 9 percent increase. UF is also asking for a waiver to the requirement that it use at least 30 percent of its tuition increase on financial aid.

Wilcox called USF’s plan a “bare bones” proposal, less than 30 minutes after telling the board at length that USF’s gains cannont be sustained with the level of budget cuts the university has sustained over the past several years.

Bird said it was worse than bare bones.

Long time trustee Rhea Law agreed, though in the end she supported the 11 percent.

“We should be trying to elevate and meet the goals set for this institution” not telling the Board of Governors and the community that USF doesn’t need more.

The problem, however, is that the Legislature has steadily been shifting the costs of a university education from taxpayers to families by cutting state funding while imposing tuition hikes, said trustee chairman John Ramil.

“We are giving the state government cover by continuing to raise tuition,” he said, adding that is needs to stop because families can’t bear it.

Earlier in the day, however, the board did approve a fee hike for USF Tampa students.

If approved by the state Board of Governors, it will raise per credit hour fees by $2. The increase would boost building and construction student fees to $6.76 per hour.

It’s a lot of money but it will be the only money coming to the university for building improvements, since the state has cut off funding available for capital spending.

The committee that recommended the fee increase also had recommendations on how to spend it. About half of the $18.5 million they expect to raise, it said, should go to plans to add three floors to the Marshall Center.

The rest would go to recreation improvements, including a pool complex and fitness center renovation.



Developer condition threatens to shut down construction of new Poly U

Posted Jun 8, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 8, 2012 at 04:00 PM

A new wrench has flown into the process of shifting assets from USF to the new Florida Polytechnic University - and it could halt construction of the new campus.

For years, USF has been planning a new classroom building on its Interstate 4 site on land donated to USF by a private Polk land owner nearly ten years ago.

The state law creating the new university requires that USF transfer its Lakeland campus property and everything on it to the new Polytechnic once Poly has a governing structure able to take charge of the project.

What makes it complicated is that the company that donated the land, Williams Acquisition Holding Co., has to sign off on the transfer - and it has some conditions of its own.

A member of the USF Board of Trustees, real estate attorney Steve Mitchell, said in a telephone conference call this morning that Williams wants a clause inserted into the transfer agreement returning the land to Williams if the property ceases to be used “exclusively” for a public university.

The head of a state Board of Governors committee, which is overseeing the new university planning, said, in effect, “no way.”

The state is investing about $100 million in the construction of the first new university classroom/lab building. Other buildings are planned on the 530 acres, which are surrounded by a 2,000-acre Williams development.

“For us to have a reverter clause in that type of agreement is mind boggling,” said board member Mori Hosseini. “To me it is unacceptable.”

He sees the campus as state property. And what if the state wants to use part of it for office buildings or something else in the future, he asked.

“I want to make sure we are protected here,” he said, after suggesting the board consider stopping campus construction.

All of this happened in a meeting that was supposed to be short and simple. But we should know by now that nothing related to the new Poly is simple.

Creating the university, Florida’s 12th, was a priority of state Sen. JD Alexander, of Polk County.

He pushed through a bill this session that immediately established the new university, shutting down the USF Lakeland campus. And that undercut a Board of Governors’ plan to turn that campus into a separate university after it had met several conditions to prove it was ready to stand alone.

Already people are talking about the challenge of starting a new university with no faculty, no students, no buildings and no accreditation.

If this doesn’t get straightened out, the new Florida Poly won’t have any land for a campus either.

Williams, for the record, has been represented by Gray Robinson law firm, in Orlando. The Gray Robinson attorney who worked with Williams until recently, Tom Cloud, is one of about 80 people who’ve applied to be on the new Florida Polytechnic board of trustees.