No summer school at UF?


Students move about Turlington Plaza on the University of Florida campus Tuesday, August 22, 2006.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

The University of Florida may have to cut summer school and reduce admissions to make up for an additional $16 million budget shortfall the school learned about this week, President Bernie Machen told a gathering of state business editors Tuesday.

A panel of state university and community college presidents at the summit said state government may be facing an additional 4 percent cut for the remainder of the fiscal year on top of the 4 percent cuts in September as tax revenues continue to spiral downward, further fallout from the housing downturn.

Machen said 51,000 students started a new semester Monday and teachers are already in place. "I can't stop the semester, which means I'm going to have to figure out in May or June how to find $16 million" by July 1.

Shutting buildings down in the summer will save energy costs, for example, but many students who are counting on summer school to graduate would not be able to, he said.

With acceptance letters going out next month, Machen said UF also may have to consider whether it can continue to accept as many students as it would like.

The anticipated state budget cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year come on top of budget forecasts that legislators will have $2 billion to $3 billion less to work with for the next fiscal year out of a $70 billion state budget as they head into session.

Education is a key component of the governor's economic development agenda.

The economy is transitioning from agriculture, tourism and construction toward innovative, knowledge-based industries like aerospace and biotechnology, according to Senate President Ken Pruitt.

The state's colleges and universities are tasked with turning out the talent to staff such industries and provide the research that leads to high-tech businesses.

After touting the economic impact of their programs, the education leaders called lawmakers' commitment to education in question, however.

Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell, himself a former state legislator, said he anticipates massive layoffs at all levels of state government, and he expected to be cutting programs at FSU because of $16 million to $18 million in new cuts likely at FSU.

"Despite the vision that we have of this prosperous economy, the reality of today reveals bleak economic conditions that the state of Florida is suffering a billion-dollar shortfall that requires all agencies, including the state university system campuses, to reduce budgets," said James Ammons, president of Florida A&M University.

FAMU took a loss of $4.1 million at the start of the year and expects to lose another $4.6 million for the remainder, he said. With a job freeze after the first round, Ammons said he now anticipates layoffs.

Anthony Clark can be reached at 352-374-5094 or anthony.clark@gvillesun.com.

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