Bradshaw wants tuition control
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 01:11
The Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida appears to have all the power. The students of Florida Gulf Coast University have endured tuition increases the last six years, including a 12 percent increase that didn’t fulfill FGCU’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 academic year. These increases were approved each year by the Board of Governors.
Eagle News sought to investigate the process and rationales behind these decisions by speaking with two of the people involved in this process: FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw, who makes recommendations to FGCU’s Board of Trustees based on careful research and budget planning, and Student Body President Peter Cuderman, who sits on the Board of Trustees.
President Bradshaw originally recommended a 15 percent increase based on FGCU’s budget for 2012-2013.
“Our role, this administration, is to go to the BOT with a balanced budget based on certain assumptions,” Bradshaw said.
“The BOT recommended to the BOG a 14 percent increase. They heard our case for it; they approved a 12 percent increase.”
Dealing with, instead, a 12 percent increase following five consecutive years of 15 percent increases, the school cut over $3 million from its budget, mostly from student programming, including slashing library hours by nearly 40 per week. Fifteen percent is the largest possible tuition increase according to state law.
These assumptions are reviewed by the Board of Trustees, voted on, and recommended by the Trustees to the state’s Board of Governors, who either approve the increase or reject these recommendations in favor of deliberated alternatives. A representative of the Board of Governors was not immediately available for comment.
Cuderman is not allowed to speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees; however, he voiced his own concerns as Student Body President.
“As far as the BOT goes, everything is represented by the chief of staff, and whatever the president says is pretty representative of what we’re going to say,” Cuderman said. “I can’t answer how the BOT feels because I’d have to talk to the chief of staff of the University (Susan Evans), but as the student body president I can.”
Both men discussed the process of such important decisions as a give and take type of process.
“I think the BOG has a legitimate prescribed role in overseeing and coordinating all the state universities to ensure that the collective is meeting the higher education needs in Florida,” Bradshaw said. “We had numbers to support a 15 percent increase…There are checks and balances within this system. We do have processes in place where we can appeal decisions.”
FGCU did appeal the governor’s decisions to reduce the tuition hike to 12 percent from the recommended 14 percent.
“They didn’t think we made a compelling argument for a 14 percent increase,” Bradshaw said.
Cuderman discussed the importance, despite its inconvenience for students, of the tuition increase for keeping FGCU’s quality of education at a high level.
“When I made my vote (for 14 percent), it was because we needed that money. Like I’ve said before, the 15 percent happened every single year. There was no way I could say yes to that. We voted for the 14 percent because we needed the money.”
“When the BOG voted for 12 percent, it made it difficult for students to continue the education they were getting here,” Cuderman said. “Without the same type of funding as all these other schools, we’re not going to continue being successful. We’re performing with barely any resources from the state. If it continues, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Both men were well versed on the issues facing the University. Bradshaw, however, offered a different opinion.
“One thing that’s not said enough, in my opinion, is that even with the tuition increases and the budget cuts the state of Florida university system provides a high quality, affordable education, perhaps more affordable than any other state system in the country,” Bradshaw said. “Tuition and fees is just a bit north of $6,000 at FGCU. What that reflects is that historically the state of Florida has invested in education.”
“The state university system of Florida has enjoyed great support from the state. That support has waned significantly because of the current economic times over the last five years. We’re still low relative to most of the other states,” Bradshaw said.
According to the president, Florida’s tuition rates are the third or fourth lowest in the country.
“That’s part of the context of the tuition increases. Will students have to work more? Yeah,” Bradshaw said. “The majority of our students graduate with zero debt. The current national average debt is $26,000. Students who take out loans here at FGCU, their average debt is $17,500. I submit to you that will be more than they pay for their first car.”