Senate budget for Florida’s universities: The guts of the argument is over reserves

As the Palm Beach Post‘s John Kennedy reports this morning, the guts of the Senate’s argument for huge budget cuts at the state’s universities is that the universities are holding large reserves that have grown substantially since this recession’s round of budget cuts began in 2008.

Senate Budget Chief J.D. Alexander, who is also pushing hard for the immediate conversion of USF’s Polytechnic campus in Lakeland to Florida’s 12th independent university, argued, according to Kennedy, that “state finance records show schools had $859 million in reserves available at year’s end — $300 million more in reserves than in 2008.”  Alexander and some other senators want the universities to spend down these reserves in lieu of receiving more state dollars.  The Senate budget proposes a reduction of $400 million in SUS support from the present fiscal year.

The university budget cuts since 2008 have driven a fundamental change in the funding model at the SUS institutions.  Prior to this shift, tuition provided approximately one-fifth of instructional costs.  With the budget cuts and successive tuition increases, tuition and state funding now provide comparable shares of instructional costs, a situation that exists in the university systems of many other states.  See Sherman Dorn’s compilation for some hard numbers.

More from John Kennedy at the Post:  [BOG Chair] Colson says universities now close to fat free


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