State College of Florida tuition and fees going up 8 percent

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 19, 2011 

MANATEE -- The State College of Florida board Wednesday OK’d a $47.1 million budget, raising tuition and fees about 8 percent.

The vote was 5-1, with trustee Carlos Beruff voting no, saying he had not been given enough time to adequately review it.

Among the increases were hikes in a “student access” fee from $20 to $40 per term in order to make it simpler for students to pay expenses electronically with a card, said Carol F. Probstfeld, vice president for business and administrative services.

In-state tuition and fees for a two-year program were set at $102.48 per credit hour, up from last year’s figure of $94.90; a four-year program would cost $113.64, compared to $105.22 per credit hour last year, officials said.

A 15 percent decline in student enrollment to a little more than 10,000, triggered a discussion among board members concerned about possible drastic measures may be needed in the future to keep the college financially healthy.

Revenues are off considerably and expenses are up $3-4 million, Beruff said.

“If it wasn’t for us raising the fees, we would actually be losing revenues, is that right?” he asked Probstfeld.

She answered: “Yes.”

He wondered how long the college could continue filling the budget hole resulting from declining enrollment, asking, “Is this a sustainable budget going forward?”

Board member Joe Miller suggested if Beruff wanted to review the budget in more detail and come back with fixes later on, the board could accommodate him.

“I’m comfortable in voting on the budget here today,” Miller said.

The budget also called for a 3 percent raise for its employees, but it will be a wash for most because they’ll also be contributing 3 percent more toward their state retirement funds, saving SCF $1 million a year, Probstfeld told the board.

After the budget discussion, Beruff also objected to a motion that would allow SCF President Lars Hafner to launch new athletic teams without board approval.

Hafner explained that he would inform the board about any such endeavors.

Officials said the advantage would be in helping to raise money from potential donors for sports teams.

“I sort of like the board being able to say ‘No,’” Beruff said, but he voted with the others, and the motion passed.

The budget also called for SCF’s Collegiate School, a public charter school on the Bradenton campus now serving 6th- and 7th-graders, to add 8th-graders this fall.

SCF’s allocation from the state Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, which are separate from the general operating budget, include an allocation of $818,253 for general maintenance, renovation and remodeling at its campuses at Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice, and $5 million for renovation of the SCF library in Bradenton, officials said.

Over the years, the amount of money in the pot has been shrinking.

“All the colleges are suffering the same problem -- there just aren’t as many dollars to go around to service the needs that all the institutions have to accommodate,” said Kathy Walker, director of public affairs and marketing.

SCF really appreciates what it has been given, though, she said.

“Considering the diminishing funds, we really appreciate the worthiness of this particular project (the library) was recognized by our legislators -- hats off to them, they really came through for the college and the community,” she said.

Florida’s 11 public universities are also facing budget challenges.

University presidents are looking for ways to avoid deficits after lawmakers cut their operational spending by $140 million, or 4 percent, for the budget year that begins July 1.

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