Florida House and Senate members are currently debating whether to cut $300-$400 million out of higher education for the 2012 fiscal year budget. That comes after state spending on education has already dropped by 24 percent and is now at 2003 levels in the Sunshine State.
Meanwhile, tuition at Florida's 11 public universities has been raised every year for the past four years, though some will argue that's been necessary, considering the state still ranks as one of the least expensive in the nation when it comes to tuition.
For the 2011-12 academic year, annual tuition at Florida state universities averaged $5,626, an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year, when the average was $5,034.
Dustin Ponder with Students for a Democratic Society says that the recent proposed budgets regarding higher ed in Florida would in particular "devastate" the USF campus, especially while the Legislature is giving more tax breaks to corporations. "It's going to result in higher tuition prices on campus and it's going to result in lower quality education and lower access for working class and middle class people," he says. "So students are pretty outraged on the USF campus and all around the state and country right now because of this trend of increasing costs of education and lower opportunities for young people."
Last fall, activists led by Ponder marched to the Tampa campus's administration building, which houses the office of Judy Genshaft. The USF school president was absent that day, dealing with the USF-Poly issue in Boca Raton, an issue that has only intensified since last fall.
Ponder says he knows USF administrators can't do anything about tuition hikes or funding to the university, and that's why the demonstrations in Tampa and throughout Florida are directed specifically at Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Senate budget chair J.D. Alexander, and House budget chair Denise Grimsley from Sebring. "These people are pushing these massive budget cuts that are going to affect students, so our primary target are those three individuals, and the state legislature as a whole, who's sort of pushing this agenda. We want to send a strong message all across the state that it's unacceptable and they to listen to the voice of students and not take away our opportunity to better ourselves."
The protest at USF is scheduled to begin at 12 noon in front of Cooper Hall.