Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Locked Out

Two years ago when the state reduced the appropriations for FAU by 1.8 percent, Dr. Kenneth A. Jessell, chief financial officer, said, “We will be raising the thermostat a degree or so in summer, and lowering it a degree or so in winter.”

Today, students have grown accustomed to the temperature changes and University officials learned how to work within a tighter budget. But concerns linger, especially about summer course offerings.

“When I first came to FAU two years ago, there were no open summer courses, and only a few were available in Fall Semester,” recalls Jackie Sinclair, a transfer student from Jamaica. “In April, students register for both Summer and Fall Semester. As a transfer student, you don’t have as many options as a freshman, so I could register for two courses only.”

Now Sinclair is graduating from the College of Education. “You quickly learn tricks of the trade. Register early for any course you can, and then drop it later if you can’t work it into your schedule,” she said.

Every year FAU admits almost 3,000 transfer students, mainly from community colleges. Many find themselves in Sinclair’s shoes; they mainly have to take whatever courses are still open. Nevertheless, Dr. Michael R. Armstrong, associate provost, does not think that there are a lack of courses during the summer.

“The schedule for summer 2005 is generally as robust as that of previous summers, with more than 1,900 courses being offered, although each department constantly modifies the schedule to try to meet student demand in the most effective manner,” Dr. Armstrong says.

Benedict Rose, majoring in multimedia studies, agrees, but points out that “many courses are in the middle of the day.” FAU is a nontraditional university with more than 60 percent of students working full- or part-time who cannot attend day classes, she explains.

Still, Dr. Armstrong is not alone in his views. Dr. Guritno Roesijadi, chair of Biological Sciences, points out that his department “has active summer programs at both Boca and Davie campuses, and summer courses are taught by a combination of professors and full-time instructors and adjuncts.”

Carrie Randall, a biology major, says, “I got lucky this year, because I have a good amount of credits so I registered early. I got what I wanted. But generally, there are not too many 4,000 courses, so you have to adjust your choices accordingly.”

However, at the College of Arts and Letters, not all prerequisites and core courses are offered in summer. In 2003, many adjuncts lost their jobs due to the budget cuts, and the situation has not yet improved considerably, according to Dr. Susan Reilly , chair of the Department of Communication.

“We have been focusing resources on fall and spring terms in an attempt to serve larger numbers of students and this may have a negative effect on certain summer offerings,” notes Dr. Reilly. “A number of courses that were taught by adjuncts are not available, and some faculty members don’t want to teach in summer.”

However, Dr. Armstrong sees it differently. “The University has not experienced any budget cuts that would have resulted in a reduction of adjuncts. An initiative of several of the colleges is to reduce the reliance on adjuncts by hiring more professors and instructors who are full-time employees of the University. Adjuncts should generally only be used to supplement the full-time faculty, and universities and colleges are simply working on the appropriate balance in this regard,” he adds.

But the reduction in number of courses may actually force people to graduate later, Dr. Reilly observes. The current graduation rate for FAU is 35 percent, the lowest among the 11 state universities, but Dr. Armstrong argues that this fact cannot be taken out of the broader context.

“The 35 percent refers to a small portion of the FAU population, those who enter the University as first-time-in-college freshmen. FAU enrolls about 2,500 of these each year, out of a total population of more than 25,000. Most of our undergraduate students are transfers from local community colleges, and their graduation rate is about twice that of the freshmen students, who often transfer to another institution after a term or two at FAU. The community college transfers tend to stay at FAU until graduation,” Dr. Armstrong notes.

With the new state law that ties 10 percent of university dollars to performance measures, including graduation rates and passing certification exams, FAU might lose $13,803,467 in state money. Dr. Armstrong expresses his concerns about the accountability measurements, but underlines that “the state of Florida has not yet established performance standards for each state university although the Board of Governors and the Florida Legislature are in the process of establishing performance measures to apply to universities, one of which will likely be related to graduation rates.”

Dr. Reilly’s view is that “balancing a tight budget and the state performance standards is the problem that FAU faces.” In her opinion, new accountability measurements are needed by the state to be able to operate on significantly reduced budgets brought on in part by last year’s hurricanes.

“Florida depends on the sales tax and hurricanes drove many tourists away. Probably the situation would be different if Floridians would pay state income taxes,” she observes.

At the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, students are not affected by the budget cuts since all the core courses are available, according to the assistant chair, Dr. Robert B. Cooper. However, in his opinion, faculty members are affected to a certain degree.

Dr. Cooper explains, “We are always warned that not all the courses would be available, so many of us don’t apply (to teach) for the Summer Semester. Besides, we are paid 25 percent less than during the regular semester, and not paid at all for research and committees.” Dr. Cooper says faculty members would rather pursue private grants for their research, and without being distracted by teaching dedicate all their time to research during the summer.

He adds that ultimately all faculty members get to teach in the summer if they want. In Dr. Cooper’s opinion there are sufficient resources for financing the University. “I have been with FAU since 1978, and despite all the talk things are running smoothly. But I do believe that more money needs to go into research. Research is what promotes an academic institution, not a football team that comes up short $2 million every year.”

Whatever the conditions and opinions are on a department-by-department basis, one thing is the same for all students: tuition. Reduction in state appropriations has led to increased tuition. The 2004 Legislature increased tuition for residents by 7.5 percent. This was in addition to the 8.5 percent increase that was made by the 2003 Legislature. The tuition increases for non-residents was 6.5 percent and 12.5 percent for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years, respectively. The Legislature also authorized each university board to increase nonresident tuition by up to an additional 2.5 percent.

The higher tuition and some increased fees added some money to a lean budget, but the gap between the means and needs still exists, according to University administrators. The burden for students will increase for 2005-06 as the Legislature authorizes another tuition increase.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Do you have something to say? Submit your comments below
All UNIVERSITY PRESS Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *