Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell has announced that FSU will freeze enrollment and take aggressive steps to stabilize its budget in the face of declining state revenues, chronic under-funding of enrollment growth, the unknown consequences of tax reform, and a vetoed tuition increase.
The bottom line: Getting admitted to FSU just got a lot tougher.
“We’ve got a revenue crisis looming in this state that’s going to affect students today and tomorrow,” Wetherell said. “It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that unknown outcomes of the property tax reform that just passed yesterday are likely to have serious effects on higher education.
“Add to that chronic problems of declining state revenues and under-funded enrollment — not to mention the veto of the 5 percent tuition increase — and the future’s easy to predict. We’re headed toward a budget crisis that inevitably will cut access to public higher education in this state.”
Referring to recent news reports that K-12 public school leaders have concerns about the impact of tax cuts on their teaching mission, Wetherell issued a reminder that Florida State also is a public school.
“We, too, are concerned about cuts. We, too, are concerned about class size. We are talking about a serious threat to quality if we continue to under-fund the universities.”
In 2006-07, FSU enrolled 6,328 freshmen of which approximately 1,000 were unfunded. “Something’s got to give,” Wetherell said.
Therefore, Florida State will freeze enrollment at current levels and apply stringent admission criteria for spring 2008 for freshmen and transfer students.
Current students will find reduced hours for student computing labs and reduced library hours, as well as increased fees for some services such as smart cards and transcripts.
FSU will be cutting memberships and reviewing all travel. Faculty will increase their teaching load. Some maintenance and repairs will be deferred.
While making these budget cuts, FSU will take pains to adhere to certain principles, Wetherell said.
“We will protect the integrity of the teaching, research and service mission of the university and continue to enhance our standing as one of the top research and graduate education institutions in the nation.
“We will ensure the safety and security of students, employees and the campus, and we will safeguard the financial integrity of the university.”
FSU will not surrender quality, he said, but will have constraints.
“We did receive some funding for our Pathways of Excellence program, but not enough to continue on the timeline we had set in place for achieving the quality we seek as a top public, graduate, research university,” he said. “We have extended it from five to seven years, and we have slowed the cluster hiring of faculty from six clusters to two.”
Overall, this under-funding means sacrificing access, Wetherell said.
“We just do not have the money to admit more freshmen and transfer students in 2007-08 than we did this year, so enrollment will be flat. That’s going to close our doors to a lot of promising students. Well-qualified students who we would ordinarily welcome to FSU will receive rejection letters. They worked hard; they studied hard; they served their communities; they did everything right, but there still won’t be room for them. And we will all be the worse for it.
“The students who want to come here deserve to be able to get just as good an education in Florida as they could get in other states, which charge much more. It’s our responsibility to give it to them. But without the necessary funding, our universities will fall behind, and we will have failed them. We owe it to the citizens of Florida not to let that happen.”