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Florida's Universities Growing Despite Declining Funding

4:06 PM, Aug 29, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As classes get under way at Florida's 11 universities, the schools are looking for ways to do more with less.

State universities start the 2011 - 2012 school year with a smaller budget and higher tuition. The legislature cut higher education funding four percent this year. The total budget is $3.48 billion now.

Tuition ranges from $125 - $135 per credit hour. That's up from about $75 a credit hour five years ago. But that's still a bargain. Florida ranks 48th among the states in the cost of tuition and fees.

Enrollment at all universities has continued to grow during the recession even as funding has declined.

Last year the system enrolled more than 320,000 students. State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan expects that number to be up this year.

"Our numbers have generally gone up between two and three percent across the system even in the worst of it. We expect that again this year. We won't have actual enrollment numbers for the system for about a week to ten days to get those accurate reflections of how many students are out there. But I'd be surprised if again this year we did not grow somewhere in the nature of two percent or more even in these tough economic times."

Brogan said the demand for classes at state universities is significantly higher than the system's ability to take them in.

As a result, he says universities have forged closer relationships with state colleges so students can complete their first two years at a college and then move on to a university for a baccalaureate degree.

"Access continues to be a giant priority for us, not turning away folks who have a future in higher education even in these difficult economic times. But suffice it to say, access is becoming more and more difficult as resources are harder and harder to find."

The state continues to emphasize its New Florida initiative, which aims to produce more graduates with expertise in science, technology, engineering and math. The goal is to produce the talent pool for the jobs of the future in a knowledge-based economy.

Brogan said he wants to make sure the university system is coordinating with the private sector.

"To truly make sure that opportunities are here for job growth, job creation and that our best and brightest students can always stay here and even after they graduate, work here and make a career living here in the Sunshine State."

First Coast News

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