Thousands of high school students could lose out on their first choice of Florida's universities next year. University presidents are considering capping enrollment at this year's levels to help offset millions of dollars in budget cuts. Universities say they don't want to shut people out, but they may not have a choice.
Florida's universities say they're bursting at the seams with new students. At Florida State, average class sizes have jumped to 41 students, up from 22 just two years ago.
FSU's Lee Hinkle says freezing enrollment next year at this year's levels may be the only option left in the face of millions of dollars in budget cuts.
“We owe it to the students who we accept to provide the best education that we can, and when you lose that much funding as the state universities have in the last couple of years, it makes it impossible to do that,” says Hinkle.
A statewide enrollment freeze would likely mean students guaranteed a slot through programs like Bright Futures, One Florida and the Florida Prepaid Plan might not get their first choice of schools.
Theatre major Shawn Chambers says students with specific programs in mind would suffer.
“If you say that, you know, we can't let you in because you didn't make the cut, because you're part of a certain number that can't get in, through no fault of their own, they have the GPA and the criteria, that's very disappointing,” Shawn says.
Florida is slated to get nearly $1 billion in federal funds in the coming months, and some legislators say the state should use that money so universities don't have to cap enrollment. Jeb bush wants to save the federal money for next year, but senator rod smith says the crisis is now.
“If that money's there, and it is, and if that money can be used for this purpose, and it can, then I think we should look at that,” Smith says.
Without the extra cash, universities say prospective students and their parents could find themselves with fewer options next year.
The state board of governors will take up funding issues at its meeting next week, and proposed enrollment caps are likely to come up. The university presidents are slated to make a final decision in August.