For the last three years FAU’s voted to raise your tuition as much as the state allows — make that a fourth.
Today FAU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) — the university’s 13 highest ranking officials — voted to increase tuition by 15 percent and to suspend two campuses. This is the highest increase the university can ask the state for, and nine of the 11 Florida public universities are asking for the same increase.
Those decisions come just weeks before the university absorbs a $24.7 million budget cut from the state on July 1. The tuition hikes and campus suspensions are ways the university is dealing with the cut, according to President Mary Jane Saunders.
Their decisions will only be official if the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) approves them on Thursday. The BOG makes decisions for the entire state university system, based on the decisions made by the BOT from each public university.
To justify raising tuition, the BOT compared FAU’s 15 percent increase to UF’s 9 percent increase. The Senior Vice President for Financial Affairs said FAU would still be cheaper to attend than UF.
“At 9 percent, University of Florida’s differential fee is $44.17, and at FAU 15 percent is $40.13. So in terms of that, it’s about a $423 a year difference in cost per students, and in tuition,” Dennis Crudele said.
Two of the trustees still thought raising tuition was wrong, so they spoke up.
“We have the thought to raise [tuition] 15 percent? I don’t think so,” Trustee Jeffrey Feingold told the rest of the Board. “The administration and the faculty has to take some cuts. We’re not Harvard, we’re not Yale, we’re not Tulane, we’re FAU.”
“Students have had tuition raised 15 percent every year for the last four years, and students haven’t seen an increase in their education to match the fees,” Student Body President Robert Huffman said. “I can’t support a 15 percent increase based on that.”
Before the university makes its case to the BOG, however, Saunders already made a case for the tuition hike.
“To enable us to continue to serve the highest and best interests of our students, we are asking the Board of Governors to allow us to raise tuition by 15 percent,” Saunders said in a statement released after the BOT meeting. “Even with the increase, tuition rates at FAU and Florida’s other public universities will remain among the lowest in the country.”
Students might also have to say goodbye to FAU’s campuses in Fort Lauderdale and the Treasure Coast.
Because the university has no guidelines for closing down campuses, according to Huffman, it’s “suspending” them. The two campuses won’t receive money from FAU anymore, and the students, faculty and staff on those campuses will have to relocate.
“We rent it, we don’t own it. We’re going to pay millions of dollars to keep our sign on top of a building?” Trustee Anthony Barbar said about the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus. “That’s not helping us. We need to do what’s right for Florida Atlantic University, and not anybody else.”
Before the BOT voted to suspend the campuses, however, students from Fort Lauderdale spoke out against the decision.
“This is an opportunity to create a legacy, and the only thing being created is a void,” Marta Viciedo said. “A void that most certainly will be filled by another institution or another entity that has the vision to see what opportunity exists.”
Viciedo is a graduate student in the Urban and Regional Planning program at the downtown campus.
The trustees answered back.
“The fact of the matter is you have another campus in your county where you’ll be able to continue,” Trustee Sheridan Plymale said. “As important as your education is — and believe me it is — we need things to pay for themselves.”
Then Trustee Paul Tanner spoke about the Fort Lauderdale campus suspension. “The programs are phenomenal, just not the location,” he said.
When Viciedo tried to respond to Tanner, however, Trustee Plymale denied her the chance.
“Talks will be ongoing about that campus for the next year,” Plymale told the students.
FAU’s Sea Tech campus in Dania Beach also suffered from the Board’s vote today. Classes will no longer be offered there, and the university will no longer fund the campus. Instead, the campus will support itself through research grants.
Cutting classes at Sea Tech, however, has long been discussed.
“If there’s a lot of research going on there, and that’s all you’re doing, Crudele told the UP back in late-February, “then the research has to pay for the campus.”
The 247 students at Treasure Coast will have to start commuting as early as July 1 if the BOG approves the BOT’s decisions. Programs offered at Treasure Coast are being moved to FAU’s Harbor Branch and Jupiter campuses.
Students in Fort Lauderdale, however, won’t have to move until June 2013. Technically, the campus won’t be suspended until then, however, the 569 students there will have to commute to the university’s campuses in Davie and Boca.
The 61 students at Sea Tech will have to start commuting to Davie, Boca or Harbor Branch.
Viciedo talked to the UP about the campus suspension before leaving. “It’s a short-sighted mistake,” she said.