Now that that's over

Some sort of election yesterday, I heard. The blogs are full of analysis and discussion of what happened and what will happen in the coming weeks. It was interesting to see that Clinton acted like she's the frontrunner again, even though she's only cut into Obama's delegate lead by a thin margin, by saying she'd strongly consider Obama as her VP choice. Gutsy move, considering that she probably needed wins in the 60-65% range to have a shot at catching Obama in the popular vote by the convention, but not entirely surprising. There's going to be a lot of spin and counterspin in the next few weeks as this continues on.

Which means it's time to get back to local issues, and one of mine, as you might imagine, involves the current Florida budget crisis and how it's affecting Florida's universities. The short version is, it's ugly and it isn't going to be pretty any time soon.

The ironic thing is that these cuts in higher education are coming just when the demand for our services is at its highest. College enrollment, at the undergraduate and graduate level, is generally highest when the economy goes into the dumper, because when times are bad, people look for ways to make themselves more valuable, and education is a sure path to that. So just when we're needed most, we're having to cut back, and the reason why is because we're an easy target. Never mind why--that's a blog post in itself. I'm looking at what we're facing right now, and how we might try to limit the damage.

Florida Atlantic is projecting a 5.8% cut this fall, which is over the cuts we took last fall, and that translates into approximately $10 million less in revenue. To deal with that, they're talking about admitting 2,000 fewer students, which means an additional loss of about $6.8 million at a university that's never exactly been rolling in it. The plan is to offset that loss with a tuition bump, but that's not a sure thing, because there's a tug of war going on between the Board of Governors and the Legislature.

And at least one member of the Legislature wants to make it clear who has the upper hand in this fight:

State Senate budget chief Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, has proposed abolishing the Board of Governors, the policy making board for the state university system, and reconstituting it as a body with much less power. If her bill is passed by three-fifths of the Legislature, it would go before voters as a Constitutional amendment this fall.
Make no mistake--this is a power grab aimed at the Board of Governors--it's no coincidence that it happened after the Board of Governors decided it had the power to approve tuition increases instead of the Legislature. This fight was bound to come, as Amy pointed out, because the state funds so much of the tuition for students in the state. Higher tuition means higher state-funded scholarship costs, and the Legislature can't like being told what they're going to spend money on.

The budget isn't set yet--it won't be voted on for another week at least, and I suspect the infighting will delay it beyond that, so there's time to at least let your voices be heard. If higher ed is important to you, here's the contact page for the Florida House and here's the one for the Senate. You can find out who your legislators are--if you don't know already--by using the tool in the left column. Contact your legislators and tell them your concerns about the higher ed budget cuts.

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