Tallahassee, Fl -- The president's of Florida's State University stood together at the Capital on Wednesday, asking lawmakers to invest $118 million into the system for the 2013-2014 school year.
"None of us want to increase tuition, but every single one of us, including the students, and the presidents, and the boards realize that we have to have more support if we're going to continue to deliver high quality education," said Florida State University president Eric Barron.
Florida's universities generate about $80 billion in revenue annually, but the presidents say budget cuts have been crippling.
If the $118 million investment passes, the Senate Committee on Appropriations would have to figure out exactly where the funds are coming from
"That's something we're going to look at," said Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart), the Senate Committee on Appropriations leader. "I believe that over time we have put too much state funds into health and human services and not enough into higher education so I am generally supportive of additional funding with incentives that President Gaetz has talked about but those final decisions will have to be made by the committee."
But the university leaders say that help from the state needs to happen sooner rather than later to combat the effects of educational budget cuts.
"It's time for them to realize, in my view, that we really need support, and we don't want to do it through tuition," said Barron.
Governor's Press Office Release
TALLAHASSEE – Governor Rick Scott released the following statement today, applauding university leaders’ commitment to holding the line on tuition and making college more affordable for Florida families:
“We know Florida families want the best value possible from our higher education system, which means we have to make advanced degrees more affordable and more connected to students’ ability to get a great job when they graduate. We are pleased to share this important goal with many of Florida’s finest higher education leaders who are committed to holding the line on tuition. We look forward to working closely with them as we put together a proposed budget and other policies for the upcoming legislative session.”
Several university presidents and student leaders convened at the Capitol this morning. Below are highlights from their remarks on the importance of holding the line on tuition and making higher education more affordable:
President Eric Barron (Florida State University): “None of us want to increase tuition. I don’t know of anybody in this room that wants us to increase tuition.”
President Judy Bense (University of West Florida): “All of us want to keep higher education affordable and accessible to Florida’s students and their families.”
President Bernie Machen (University of Florida): “We also want to emphasize that we very much support the focus on increasing STEM graduates in either undergraduate or graduate programs in our state.”
Cortez Whatley (Student Body President of the University of Central Florida): “For the sake of Florida’s students, businesses and the communities that we live in, we need to keep a college education affordable and accessible to all.”
TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 5, 2012 – In partnership with student government leaders, Florida’s university presidents asked lawmakers Wednesday to invest an additional $118 million into the State University System for the 2013-14 school year. With that kind of investment, they said they would be able to continue providing quality education without raising tuition by “even one penny.”
The presidents highlighted the University System’s powerful economic impact— nearly $80 billion statewide annually— and its vital role in training Florida’s future workforce. They supported tying the additional state investment to performance goals, such as increased graduation rates.
The presidents’ announcement at the Capitol kicked off the “Aim Higher” initiative, a student-led campaign focused on uniting students and community leaders in supporting more funding for higher education and raising awareness of the universities’ strong returns on public investments.
“We encourage all Floridians to stand with us and our 330,000 students,” said University of West Florida President Judy Bense. “Let’s invest in future doctors and scientists who someday could save our lives, future engineers who will build safe roads and bridges, and future teachers who will provide our children with first-class educations. Let’s invest in the future of our great state.”
Although tuition at Florida’s public universities remains among the lowest in the country, students and their families have faced double-digit tuition increases in recent years as universities have coped with severe state budget cuts. Funding to the State University System has been cut nearly 40 percent during the past five years.
A state investment of an additional $118 million would generate the revenue of a 15 percent tuition increase across the System next year.
"I understand that students and their families have greatly invested in the University System during the past five years to help maintain a high-quality education throughout Florida," said Cortez Whatley, president of the Florida Student Association and student body president at the University of Central Florida. "For the sake of Florida’s students, businesses and communities, we need to keep a college education affordable and accessible to all.”
State funding, which once covered about three-fourths of the cost of a student’s higher education, now pays for less than half at most state universities.
Florida’s public universities have a strong track record of spending tax and tuition dollars efficiently. As state funding has shrunk and enrollment has risen, universities have saved millions of dollars through cost-cutting efforts and the elimination or consolidation of academic programs.
“We cannot continue to tighten our belts without impacting our students,” Bense said. “For many of us, that may mean fewer class sections and students waiting longer to graduate.”
University of Florida President Bernie Machen focused on state universities’ roles as economic powerhouses and hotbeds of innovation.
Florida’s universities attract more than a billion dollars of research money to the state each year, which helps to find cures for diseases, develop new technologies and prepare students for a variety of jobs and industries.
Just last week, the University of Florida opened its Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona in Orlando, anchored by UCF’s College of Medicine. The center joins a burgeoning Medical City that has been described as the biggest economic game changer for Central Florida since Walt Disney World. It’s projected to generate 30,000 jobs and a total annual impact of $7.6 billion by the end of 2017.
“Our universities are heavily invested in our communities and our state,” Machen said. “We are leading job creators and innovators, and we are the key to our state meeting industry demands for highly qualified employees. An investment in Florida’s public universities is an investment our state’s economic future.”
For more information visit www.aimhigherfl.com, Follow @aimhigherfl on Twitter, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aimhigherfl.
Florida Gulf Coast University Student Body President Peter Cuderman
Florida Gulf Coast University Student Body President’s Chief of Staff Jacob Robinson
Florida International University Student Body President Laura Farinas
Florida State University President Eric Barron
Florida State University Student Body President Rueben Stokes
Florida State University Student Government Director of Governmental Affairs Harrison DuBosar
New College of Florida President Donal O’Shea
University of Central Florida President John Hitt
University of Central Florida Student Body President and Florida Student Association President Cortez Whatley
University of Florida President Bernie Machen
University of Florida Student Body President T.J. Villamil
University of Florida Student Body President’s Chief of Staff Abby Whiddon
University of North Florida President John Delaney
University of North Florida Student Body President Carlo Fassi
University of North Florida Student Body Vice President Mike Naughton
University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft
University of South Florida Student Body President Brian Goff
University of West Florida President Judy Bense