FAU could lose over a third of its budget from the state

Dylan Bouscher

Your favorite professor? Laid off. Your nearest campus? Closed down. Your tuition fees? Skyrocketed. And that’s only where the changes start if FAU loses a third of its funding from the state.

The Florida Senate voted 33-6 on a $71 billion budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal  year on Thursday, Feb. 23 which cuts over $400 million from the state’s public universities. FAU would lose 33 percent of its state funding in the Senate’s budget proposal, which doesn’t allow the schools to raise tuition to cover the cuts. The Florida House of Representatives has its own proposal, which would only make a $250 million cut, and allow universities to raise their tuition anywhere from 8 to 15 percent. According to Senior Vice President of Financial Affairs Dennis Crudele, FAU would consider closing programs, postponing projects and increasing class sizes to make up for the cuts. Budget cuts and tuition hikes are nothing new though, they’ve been going on since 2008.

FAU President Mary Jane Saunders thinks the cuts will severely impact the university. Saunders said, “We do need to rally support from our communities, to say that this would be devastating and kind of give a little list of the kinds of things that a third of your state subsidy cut could possibly cut. And the word there is possibly because we have not asked for cuts from the units.”

A recent study reported by the Board of Governors for all Florida public universities, showed that FAU has a $4 billion economic impact on six counties. “I’m really pleased that the economic impact study was just done,” Saunders said. “It’s very current information, I think that’s a really good number that can help to convince people responsible for making sure the state moves out of the recession as quickly as it can.”

According to the study, FAU has had a “positive direct or indirect impact” on 59,000 full-time and part-time jobs within the six counties the university impacts. “FAU provides a $4 billion economic impact to its six-county service region, and these cuts would be shattering to all we serve,” Saunders said.

In 2007-2008, FAU’s state funding was about $189 million. Last year it was $140 million and the Senate’s cuts bring it to $93 million, according to President Saunders. “You can’t make up the cuts with tuition,” Crudele said. The university lost $69 million in state funding over the last five years, as well as the stimulus money FAU received for the last two years, according to Crudele. He said, “We’ve gained it back with tuition increases to a certain degree, but you can never make up $69 million over that same five year period.”

Without being specific, Crudele said the university would consider reducing summer sessions, laying off staff and even closing campuses if the budget is approved. Crudele did mention the SeaTech research campus in Dania Beach might be the first to go. He said, “If there’s a lot of research going on there, and that’s all you’re doing, then the research has to pay for the campus.” According to Crudele, if SeaTech were shut down, the programs would be moved to FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft. Pierce.

Student Government President Ayden Maher met with state legislators on the budget committee during the Rally In Tally, where he and other students from FAU lobbied against budget cuts and tuition increases. Maher said, “I think it’s a shame the state would want to slash $400 million from the state budget. We’re talking about 33 percent of our operating budget. We’re talking closing campuses, laying off professors, larger class sizes, higher tuition and higher fees.”

Maher started a petition against the budget cuts on Feb. 17, which had 1,988 signatures as of press time. Once the petition gets 2,000 signatures, it will be put on the desks of every legislator in the House and Senate, and Fla. Gov. Rick Scott. Students, faculty, staff and administrators can sign the petition online at SignOn.org. You can also find the link to the petition on the SG Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Occupy FAU is also working on a petition against tuition increases. They spent last semester organizing and protesting budget cuts and tuition increases. “This is just another attack on students. This has been going on for years,” Occupy FAU organizer, Gonzalo Vizcardo said about the proposed millions in cuts.

“The administrators cannot use these cuts as justification for another round of tuition hikes. Most people are tired of paying tuition increases five years in a row.” Occupy FAU will protest the cuts on March 1 which is the National Day of Action for Education, an event organized by Occupy Colleges. Over 60 colleges are expected to participate, according to Vizcardo.

Crudele and Saunders both noticed a trend in the proposed cuts. The universities in urban areas are getting hit the hardest in the Senate’s budget proposal. USF originally faced a 58 percent decrease, but after some discussion the Senate changed it to 26 percent. Meanwhile, FAU, FIU, and and UCF face 34 percent cuts. Check the sidebar to see how FAU’s cuts compare to other Florida public universities.

Traditional universities in rural areas, however, will face smaller funding decreases. “The cuts that were proposed were disproportionate. The universities that serve a great number of students did take a larger proposed cut to their base budget, ratio-wise,” Saunders said. “Yes it is true that the proposal that was put forth did not treat all the universities identically.”

Crudele agreed with Saunders on rural institutions facing a lighter cut. He said, “It does appear that the urban institutions were hit disproportionately harder. I don’t think there was any real methodology to the cuts.”

Some students are outraged about the cuts, others are not. Sophomore biology major Scott Arnold hopes the cuts postpone the next phase of Innovation Village development. Arnold thinks the project is interfering with FAU’s nature preserve. “It will probably slow down the university’s growth, but they can make it up through tuition,” Arnold said. The cuts should not affect completion of the new dorms and parking projects, meal plan prices or parking ticket fees, according to Crudele.

Secondary social science education senior, Guiliana Carmona said, “It’s not fair, we’re paying for our education. We’re the future of the state so why are they cutting money and not looking into our future?”

When the university suffered budget cuts last year, Crudele said, “The cut last year was a proportional cut to each unit. We let the units, i.e. the deans and the provost decide where those cuts would go.” Last year twelve employees were laid off because of the cuts, according to Lisa Metcalf, associate director of media relations.

Saunders said she already asked the senior staff to come up with proposals for their budget cuts. She also plans to have town hall meetings with faculty and staff once the cuts are finalized. Metcalf said the deans can’t comment on this year’s cuts until the official budget is finalized. Heather Coltman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters did say the cuts would severely impact the college’s academic programs. “Due to past cuts, the College has not been able to hire new faculty and several departments continue to remain short-staffed,” Coltman said.

“Any additional budget cuts will severely impact our ability to maintain the excellence of our academic programs.”

Once the House of Representatives votes on their version of the budget cuts, a joint committee will meet to draft a final version both legislative bodies can pass. The State Constitution requires the compromised bill to be sent to legislators by March 6 and for a final vote on March 9.

Whether the cuts at FAU are closer to the $39 million in the House version, or the $47 million in the Senate version, Crudele said, “There’s no question they’ll have a cut.”

President Saunders wants to assure people the university is doing everything it can to avoid the budget cuts. She said, “I would hate to see something like this derail us from our positive future.”

Regina Kaza contributed to the reporting of this story.

–––––––––––––––––––––—What can you do with $47 million at FAU?——————––––––––––––––––––

-Buy 250,053 in-state classes and 62,189 out-of-state classes.

-Renovate The Burrow four times.

-Build a dorm that can hold 600 beds.

-Buy 188,000 football season tickets.


––––––––––––––––––––––—–How much other schools are being cut———————––––––––––––––––

The Senate’s entire budget for higher education is $6.7 million which is 2.2 percent lower than their 2011-12 budget. This budget cuts $411.5 million from all public universities.