State budget issues and UFF

If you are visiting the faculty union blog because of the e-mail I sent out through Blackboard, welcome. I apologize for not putting the following in the e-mail directly, but I think it better to put political comments and requests on our private domain than send them through university e-mail.

Today, the budget news is schizophrenic. Several universities including USF are reporting draconian budget scenarios given the additional hold-back of over 3% of recurring state appropriations. (State officials did this across the board. While it is not technically a budget cut, I expect the legislature will turn the hold-back into budget cuts during either a special session or the regular session in the spring.)

Yet the governor proposed millions of dollars in additional funding to higher education (and more to elementary and secondary schools). In the case of budgets, the governor proposes, the legislature writes, and then the governor line-item vetoes. So while having the governor’s support of additional funding feels good, it is no guarantee.

My instinct is that the legislature will cut higher education severely unless they are convinced that it is a good investment of state funds and unless they are convinced that severe cuts this year will incur long-lasting damage. I am therefore urging everyone at USF to contact your local state representative and senator to explain what you do at USF and how that matters to students, the community, and the state. I can give you factoids you can repeat, such as the following from Lisa Barrow and Cecilia Rouse’s 2005 article Does College Still Pay?:

College is definitely still worth the investment. In fact, there are no signs that the value of a college education has peaked or is on a downward trend. Also, the rapid annual percentage rise in the cost of tuition has had little effect on the value of a college education, largely because tuition is a relatively small part of the true total economic cost of attending college. Most of the true economic cost of college is the wages students forego while they attend—and those have not risen by very much at all. (p. 2)

That perspective is important, especially when legislators and others are likely to focus on tuition. (Total student debt is the larger picture and something we should be concerned with, but I agree with Rouse and Barrow that tuition is only part of the picture.)

But legislators will pay attention to your story as a constituent, of your personal value to students and the public. All it takes is a minute or two of your time to call each office. (If you don’t know your legislators, find your representative or find your senator and their contact information with your nine-digit zip code and a few clicks each.) Make sure not to use university resources to make the contact, so use your personal cell phone or your own e-mail and your own computer. But it is crucially important to contact your legislators now, long before the session.

And if you make an appointment to meet with your legislator, please let me know — if I can make the meeting, I will do my best to help you explain how cuts will affect USF and the community. We have to work together to educate legislators about the value of USF and the dangers of cutting higher education any further.


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