MANATEE -- State College of Florida and the University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee are united in their belief that proposed drastic cuts to USF’s Tampa campus would be devastating to the Bradenton/Sarasota area.
Lars Hafner, president of SCF, and Arthur Guilford, regional chancellor for USF Sarasota/Manatee, said the proposed $129 million bite out of USF’s Tampa budget would hurt the local area even though both SCF and USF-Sarasota/Manatee are not the target of any major proposed cuts.
“We send a majority of our students to that institution,” said Lars Hafner, president of SCF. “The proposed cuts would be bad for higher education throughout the whole state of Florida.”
“They would be devastating for the entire Tampa Bay area,” Guilford said. “Our students enjoy the luxury of being able to take classes in St. Pete and Tampa in addition to here.”
A proposal by State Sen. J.D. Alexander would take $129 million away from USF through a combination of spending cuts ($80 million) and removing USF Polytechnic from USF’s overall system. The removal of Polytechnic, which is a branch of USF located in Lakeland, would cause USF to lose $6 million that had been set aside for the university’s pharmacy school, $25 million that would be held in contingency while Polytechnic separates, and another $16 million through USF’s forced “absorption” of Polytechnic staff and faculty.
In addition, a proposal being considered by the state House of Representatives would cut funding for Florida’s state colleges by an average 6 percent.
Guilford said the economic impact triggered by such cuts would stretch into Sarasota/Bradenton. “Think of the jobs lost, the gas not used, the fewer groceries sold,” he said. “There isn’t a lot to say other than this first blow through the budget looks very bleak for the University of South Florida.”
Despite the dismal outlook, Guilford and Hafner said it’s too early to see the proposed budget cuts as certainties. Guilford said he believed constantly calling attention to the negative impact on USF and the region could convince legislators to steer away from such significant cuts.
Hafner said he remains hopeful not only that proposed cuts to Florida’s state college system will be eliminated, but that $8.5 million designated for just three of Florida’ 28 colleges will instead go into the overall pot to be shared among the schools.
“It’s still too early,” he said. “We understand this is a process up in Tallahassee, and when the governor released his budget he had state colleges pretty much flat. I can see where they all could come to a meeting of the minds.”
Christine Hawes, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.