Much has occurred during the past few weeks that will impact our university’s financial future, and I want to update you on what the news means for us.
The state of Florida recently announced that the budget deficit for fiscal year 2008-09 has increased to $2.2 billion. This means that universities will likely experience additional budget cuts this fiscal year.
On July 1, 2008, $10.8 million (4 percent) was withheld by the state from our budget because of projected revenue shortfalls. Consistent with our proactive approach to handling the budget, we withheld an extra $5.4 million (2 percent) to prepare for the additional cuts that now appear likely.
Once the state’s budget plans are formalized and the impact on UCF is clear, I will communicate how we will be affected. In the meantime, I urge colleges and divisions to continue to conserve resources.
More Cuts in 2009-10
Including reserve funds slated to address reductions in our 2008-09 budget, UCF has had more than $44 million removed from its state budget since July 1, 2007. During this time, we have been guided by our desire to minimize the effects of the budget cuts on students and to protect faculty and staff members. In many respects we have succeeded, but unfortunately, state experts now predict that the 2009-10 fiscal year budget deficit could exceed $5 billion. While we anticipate additional budget cuts for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009, we will most likely not know the extent of those cuts until the Florida Legislature meets during the spring.
As the economy worsens, we must maintain our focus on the success of our students and university. While hoping for the best, deans and vice presidents continue to plan based upon the realities we face. During these difficult times, UCF’s faculty and staff members have made tremendous efforts to maintain our level of excellence and, clearly, our students have benefited as a result of your sacrifices and contributions.
Governor Calls for Tuition Increase
According to a 2007-08 College Board national survey of public universities, Florida universities’ tuition and fees are the nation’s lowest, averaging $3,361 a year. Tuition and fees in thirty-five states average at least $5,000 a year.
That is one of the reasons why Governor Crist recently recommended that the boards of trustees at each state university be given the option to establish differential tuition. Also under this proposal, which the state Legislature must approve, statewide tuition would rise at the same rate as inflation. Individual universities would have the option of raising tuition to a maximum of 15 percent a year. Although UCF already has this authority, expanding differential tuition authority to all state universities will strengthen Florida’s higher education system. Over time, the additional tuition revenue will help to dampen, but not eliminate, the impact of budget reductions.
For an in-state UCF undergraduate student taking 30 credit hours, a 15 percent increase in tuition would cost an additional $380 during the 2009-10 academic year. For a student taking 21 credit hours, the average number of hours taken by our resident undergraduate students, the academic year tuition would increase by $266. Understanding the impact on students and their families, 30 percent of the differential tuition revenues would go toward need-based student financial aid.
As we learn more about the state budget cuts and as the governor’s plan moves through the legislative process, I will continue to regularly communicate about what is ahead for our university. Once again, thank you for your dedication to UCF.