Students’ school email accounts, usually occupied with announcements about educational events and correspondence, received an email with the subject line “2018-19 Academic Year Tuition Rates” on March 3. The letter from President Father Paul J. Fitzgerald outlined the 3.9 percent increase in tuition, room and board and a 2.6 percent increase for the meal plan, beginning next year.
Jeff Hamrick, the vice provost for institutional budget planning and analytics, pointed to the total price of $47,550 that USF will cost this fall and said, “That’s kind of a large figure right there, but very few of our students actually pay that amount.” He was referencing the $105,659,000 budgeted for financial aid, which is 8.9 percent more than last year’s budget, but 3.4 percent less than the forecasted actual expenditures for 2018. These expenditures will be finalized after the upcoming fall semester, after the incoming students’ discounts are paid and the fall census reveals how many students returned, were added or departed with their tuition in hand.
Hamrick estimated that between half and two-thirds of the year’s tuition increase will go towards financial aid. The next largest proportion will go towards increases in faculty compensation, he said. USF is required by the various unions of employees at the school to increase their compensation, and additionally increases compensation based on the step – or seniority – of faculty members.
The remaining proportion of the increase will go towards what Hamrick called “initiatives,” which are new developments in the school’s operation. Some of these are visible to students and others aren’t. Projects under the “Student Life Division” of spending include an additional campus safety dispatcher for Public Safety, the funding for staff for the new Black Achievement and Student Engagement program and career counseling for graduate students, among other things. Behind the scenes, some of the new money is going towards a new money-managing program for the Information Technology Services division called Workday, maintenance on the school’s energy-producing cogeneration facility and the installation of showers and sinks in a facilities closet in the Koret Health and Recreation Center to become a new gender-neutral locker room.
Noticeably absent from the list of expenditures are big projects, such as the construction of a new dorm complex and ROTC building, as well as full-tuition scholarships for the Black Scholars program. Hamrick explained that the construction project will be funded by loans, which will be paid off out of the debt servicing budget for years in the future.The Black Scholars scholarships will come from the existing financial aid budget, which will be redistributed by the financial aid office.
For every initiative that does get funded, Hamrick said about five or six ideas put forward are not funded. For example, Vice Provost of Student Life Julie Orio asked for funding for a new Center for Academic and Student Achievement (CASA) coach and a new disability specialist for Student Disability Services. Both requests were deferred, to be reconsidered in the future. Hamrick said this wasn’t a reflected on whether or not the requests were important. “They just couldn’t be funded in the current cycle,” he said.
Hamrick summed up the nature of USF’s financial model in four words: “student-dependent” and “data-driven.” In 2019, the school will be 89.74 percent dependent on money coming from students – that’s how much of total revenue is estimated to come from tuition, after exceptions. Overall, for the same year, just over half of the school’s spending will go towards compensation for employees, and about 23 percent will be financial aid. The rest goes towards the general operation (16.42 percent), food services, debt, insurance and reserves.
As for the financial aid increase, President Fitzgerald said in the letter, “I assure you that the university is working diligently to ensure that these increases are necessary to deliver USF’s distinctive education and provide the services for students’ success, safety, and well-being.”