Students to Foot Bill after Intense Round of Budget Cuts

Eleven public universities in Florida, including Florida A&M and Florida State University, are expected to lose $300 million for the upcoming year, leaving students to make up the difference.

Universities owe more than $500 million to the State University System.

Students have rallied to get petition signatures in an effort to urge Gov. Rick Scott to veto a bill that would raise tuition by more than 15 percent.

“There are various numbers being thrown around concerning how much Rick Scott and the House leaders are actually contemplating borrowing and I want accuracy from our administration,” said Elizabeth Davenport, president of the FAMU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.

FAMU’s budget has been cut by almost $20 million for the upcoming year.

President James Ammons is adamant that the school’s reserve funds will cover any revenue discrepancies. Scott and Republican House leaders are debating whether to borrow $45 million dollars from FAMU’s reserve funds.

Universities are required to maintain a 5 percent fund balance. FAMU had $49,838,717 in reserve funds as of June 30, 2011, which will be reduced to $19,850,901, making the reserve fund $29,987,816 in the next fiscal year.

“I don’t have the financial means to continue to pay the school,” said Angel Garner, a second-year education student from Detroit. “I’m an out- of-state student and it’s becoming hard to stay at FAMU with increasing tuition.”

While Ammons wants to increase enrollment by recruiting high school seniors, the increase of tuition costs could serve as a deterrent.

“The university is analyzing how this reduction will impact students and employees,” said Ammons. “We are determining what measures can be taken to soften the financial blow.”

Davenport said clarity of operations should be the first priority of the administration.

“I just want President Ammons to be clear about everything going on. Faculty, staff and students deserve to know how it will impact us,” she said.

According to the State University System of Florida’s mid-year analysis, reserves are expended for purchases of library resources, student financial aid, funding adjunct faculty, instructors and campus security.

“The UFF-FAMU is in the process of negotiating salary increases for its members,” said Ammons. “It is my hope that some increases can be affected within our financial constraints and make our future outlook brighter.”