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USF Students, Head Trustee Protest Budget Cuts

USF is facing a budget cut of around 20 percent. That could affect everything from summer school to the operation of the new pharmacy college.

Senate budget chief JD Alexander is says USF should dip into its reserve fund to offset the cuts. But USF Board of Trustees Chairman John Ramil says the university can't do that.

It's mandated to set aside a percentage of its budget - and it has to keep cash on hand for an emergency, such as a hurricane.

"We are being put in the position of having no choice but to raise tuition," said Ramil, "At what level, I don't know. We haven't analyzed that. But that is the very obvious position we're being put in."

And that has students agitated.

A few blocks away outside Cooper Hall, the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society rallied against budget cuts and tuition increases.

They had a call and response chant- "Cut back! Fight Back!"

About 100 students held signs saying things like "education is a right" and listened to speakers like Suzie Shannon, who works at USF.

"People say public education should be free- work towards that goal," said Shannon, "And just understand that we're all in this together and we need to be allies with each other, make the future a possibility instead of something to fear."

Then, the students marched across campus to the Marshall Center, where the Board of Trustees was meeting. They sat in the atrium and one by one they took turns making speeches.

Students have gone through several years of double-digit tuition increases in Florida as state lawmakers cut funding for higher education.

On the other hand, tuition rates are still relatively low. Compared to other states, Florida's state universities rank 45th in the cost of tuition.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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