Higher Education: Funding
Here’s how Florida’s public universities plan to get the money they say they need to get better.
The universities' need for more paying customers dovetails with demand from Floridians for slots and President Obama's goal of increasing America's degree holders. The University of North Florida, for example, wants to add 8,000 students in 10 years to get to 25,000. FAU wants to grow from its current 28,000 students to between 33,000 and 35,000. Even growth-averse UF is trying to increase its capacity by creating a spring-summer college career, a period when exiting December graduates leave room for newcomers. "To our knowledge, no one has done this," says provost Joe Glover.
» Higher tuition
As numbers rise, so will tuition. The Legislature in 2007 joined a few other states that recently gave universities more latitude in setting their own prices: Each year, the Florida schools can add to whatever systemwide increase the Legislature enacts, up to a 15% increase. They can keep raising tuition each year until they reach the national average.
To most efficiently use higher-ed dollars, "the single most important action we can take is to improve our retention and graduation rates."
— Mark Workman, provost, University of North Florida
The differential, which is cumulative, has raised $115.7 million in the last two years for universities. UF President Bernard Machen and FSU President Eric Barron this year unsuccessfully sought permission to raise their tuition 30%, and there's sentiment among some higher ed leaders that UF and FSU, as the state's strongest brands, should be completely free to set their tuition at market rates.
UF, additionally, wants permission for block tuition, in which students pay a flat fee per semester for their classes rather than by the credit hour. The main point, Glover says, is to increase access to UF by having existing students graduate faster, but it also will bring in $3 million to $4 million a year in extra revenue.
Rosenberg says FIU's projection for higher tuition and enrollment growth over 10 years will mean funds for 900 new faculty at an institution where faculty is "stretched thin," reducing its student-teacher ratio to 24:1 from 27:1. The projection also calls for more advisers, putting FIU in the national range for advisers- per-student.
"This growth model is about how to have a better institution," Rosenberg says. "We're going to try to take charge of our future through this growth."