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USF Sees Gains, Losses in State Budget

Associated Press
Gov. Rick Scott signs the state budget Tuesday at Cunningham Creek Elementary School in Fruit Cove

The $70 billion budget signed by Governor Rick Scott Tuesday contained both good and bad news for the University of South Florida, along with one giant issue still yet to be decided--the fate of USF Polytechnic.

Among the items approved by Scott was $6.9 million to support the initial design of the new USF Heart Health Institute.

"This is a forward-looking action on the part of the governor, and we thank him for it," said USF President Judy Genshaft. 

The budget also contained $1.2 million for the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which works closely with researchers from USF's College of Marine Science. 

However, Scott vetoed a $2 million digital middle school math learning project developed by USF St. Petersburg, SRI International and the Pinellas County School District. 

And while he didn't decide on if USF Polytechnic in Lakeland will become an independent university, he did protect the $33 million included for it in the budget, a sign that he may be leaning towards approval. Scott has until Saturday to decide if he'll approve the bill, the top priority of Senate budget chief JD Alexander.

At the signing ceremony in a suburban Jacksonville elementary school Tuesday, Scott said, "So what I've got to decide by the end of the week is can we afford a 12th university? Will it be an efficient use of your tax dollars? Again, it's your tax dollars."

The budget includes a 5 percent tuition increase at state colleges, and Scott suggested the Board of Governors also limit tuition hikes to 5 percent as well. Most of Florida's universities have gone with the maximum 15 percent increase the last few years to offset state funding cuts--a move many were leaning towards again with another $300 million being slashed from their coffers in this budget. 

In a letter to the community, Genshaft indicated USF's budget can't be decided until the Polytechnic issue is resolved, and students' tuition for next school year won't be known until the Board of Governors and USF's Board of Trustees weigh in. 

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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