Much of UCF’s success in serving you, your neighbor, and the community in general, can be attributed to the generous support provided UCF by city, county, and state government. The most recent manifestation of that support occurred in the just-completed regular session of the Florida Legislature.
That is right. The Legislature. Hear me out, lest you think I have taken leave of my senses.
The numbers do not lie. UCF, along with the other 10 state universities, received a 15-percent reduction in its base recurring budget. This means that beginning July 1, UCF will lose another $38 million in operating funds. This has serious consequences. This is the budget from which teachers and researchers are paid, the electric bill, classroom support, technology, and numerous other essential costs are covered. UCF has lost $78 million in operating funds since July 1, 2007. UCF is not alone. All state and local governments are facing similar challenges.
Why, then, would I even hint at legislative support in view of these severe cutbacks? The answer and the justification for grateful appreciation to the members of the Central Florida delegation, indeed, the entire legislative leadership, lie in three legislative actions:
1. Going into the conference period (that is the time when House and Senate leaders resolve their differences and reach compromise), the proposed cuts for the State University System (SUS) were 25 percent. One proposal would have cut deeper by reducing all faculty and staff salaries by five percent. But, the conferees listened to President John Hitt, and our friends in the community (many of you), and their colleagues around the SUS; they reduced those cuts and protected salaries. The latter is a significant message to the educational community that Florida still invests in its universities, even in bad times.
2. After years of seeking tuition flexibility and solutions to the Bright Futures dilemma, the Legislature took a giant leap to provide more fiscally realistic approaches. The SUS was given differential tuition increases subject to approval by the local Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors. These increases will not be covered by Bright Futures. Florida’s SUS tuition is the lowest in the nation while our Bright Futures program is one of the most generous. No one seeks increased costs, but everyone should share in those costs as long as they are fair and reasonable. This was a very wise and vision-oriented action by the Legislature.
3. Finally, for UCF at least, the Legislature, led by many in the House and Senate, accomplished what some thought impossible: the new medical schools at UCF and FIU were fully funded. While other entities (including base budget as mentioned above) were reduced, UCF and FIU were appropriated the funds necessary to stay on target for admitting the first classes in August. Some might call this, relatively speaking, a major miracle. Whatever you choose to describe this monumental feat, it represents the belief in the promise of economic impact and recovery projected by the universities.
The session is over and Tallahassee is quiet except for the usual election politics. There may be more budget reductions in the coming months. For now, however, the proper posture for UCF’s supporters in the Legislature is thanks and recognition. If you see Representatives Dean Cannon, Steve Precourt, Chris Dorworth, Mike Horner, Sandy Adams, Geraldine Thompson, Senators Lee Constantine, Andy Gardiner, Mike Haridopolos, Thad Altman, or Evelyn Lynn, please thank them on behalf of UCF. They were supported by the leadership in the Senate and House (particularly President Jeff Atwater and Senator JD Alexander, Speaker Larry Cretul, and Representative David Rivera) and every member of the Central Florida delegation.
Thank you, too, for your support. You are as important to UCF as any elected official.
Vice President for University Relations