USF has not been immune to the effects of the financial crisis impacting the U.S. and the world, and necessary budget cuts are being made in order for the university to stay afloat in these trying economic times. However, Vice President of University Life Margaret Higgins and Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Salvador Aceves claim that these cuts will not be felt by students, stating that maintaining a quality “student experience” is of utmost importance to them when they addressed ASUSF Senate last week.
Talks of how to trim money from the budget have been going on in the President’s Cabinet since last spring according to Higgins. She explained three major priorities kept in mind during these meetings: keeping students enrolled, keeping monetary impact on students low (meaning not increasing tuition drastically or instating new fees), and recruiting and retaining staff to keep the university going strong.
Student retention will be addressed by working closely with the financial aid office. According to Aceves, currently about 60% of students are receiving some kind of financial assistance, whether it be need-based or merit-based, amounting to some $41 million. Higgins said that now the challenge of the financial aid office would be to work with students whose families have been hit hardest by the economic crisis, students whose parents lost their jobs and maybe never needed aid before this year. Most importantly, she stressed that financial aid would not be an area cut from the budget. “There will be a continued commitment to all students,” Higgins said. She also said tuition would be raised as it is every year, but percentage-wise it will be the lowest increase in the last four years.
Along with accommodating students financially, maintaining a quality student experience seemed to be the other chief concern. Higgins said that no student retreats or events would be cut to save money. In fact, she said students would most likely not feel the impact of these budget cuts at all. One effect students might see is the postponement of the remodeling of Phelan Hall and the University Center, because unnecessary construction costs are not affordable at this time, but by and large students will not observe a different feel in their experience at USF.
This is because a majority of the cuts being made will primarily impact staff. Aceves said that a dramatic cut being made is from decreasing the travel expenses by not sending staff to as many developmental conferences. Though professional development is a priority at USF, it is an expense that is not absolutely necessary at this time. Aceves said, “Some of these cuts are painful. They represent a change in service and benefits for staff.”
In addition, Higgins said that $75,000 was cut from Koret’s budget, and even food for meetings and retreats would be cut to save money. All in all, Higgins said about $356,000 was cut from University Life’s $17 million budget.
Higgins ended the meeting by telling the senate that she would like to meet with them more regularly to discuss these issues. “This is not a one meeting deal,” she said. “If things get more turbulent than they already are, we’ll need a true partnership.”