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Universities eye cuts; USF remains quiet

Posted May 10, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated May 13, 2012 at 08:36 AM

The bad news is swirling about university cuts, as officials try to figure out how to deal with the Legislature slicing $300 million from the 11 state university budgets.

The University of Florida talked about practically eliminating its Computer and Information Science and Engineering department – then backed off in the backlash.

Lawmakers had said they were only asking for the universities to reach into their cash reserves.

But it’s not that simple, UF President Bernie Machen said in a News Service of Florida story.

The universities need that money to plug the holes popping up on a regular basis because of past cuts, he said.

“We spent nearly $30 million of reserves last year to avoid having to make difficult budget decisions. ... We must maintain sufficient reserves to manage unexpected expenses associated with air conditioning system failures, roof leaks or other major outages that could put buildings out of commission and cost millions of dollars.”

USF is staying quiet about what it plans to do.

“We’re waiting until we know what’s going to happen with tuition,” said spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez.

The Legislature built a 15 percent increase into its budget plans for the universities. But the state Board of Governors has to approve that. So do the university boards of trustees, though at USF a board workgroup has already recommended approval for a 15 percent hike for undergrads and 8 percent for graduate students.

The “sticker price” for USF, including housing, meals and books, is now $20,726 a year.

Tuition and fees are more than 30 percent of that.

So as the price goes up, cuts are coming.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott is initiating a new review of the universities, to “assess the progress of prior reform efforts and identify strategies to improve efficiencies.”

You can follow its progress here.

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