USF to cut more than $35 million to balance budget during pandemic

The University of South Florida is making tough decisions to whittle down its budget, outlining more than $36 million in proposed cuts to make up for a loss in state funding.

The university has not released all of the details, but financial aid, academic advisors, and jobs could be on the chopping block.

One thing that’s certain: student tuition will not be going up for the 2020-2021 school year.

College campuses across the country are facing similar difficulties. Once bustling hubs are now more like ghost towns, with most learning being done online instead of in the lecture hall.

Those health-focused changes due to the coronavirus pandemic are forcing significant budget cuts.

All 12 universities that are part of Florida’s state university system have been directed by the board of governors to plan for an 8.5% budget cut this fiscal year and a 10% reduction in funding next year.

“We have to be thoughtful that you don’t make cuts in things that could be detrimental to student success,” a board member said.

Thursday, the University of South Florida sent an email to students, faculty, and staff, saying the shortfall means trimming $36.7 million.

USF President Steve Currall said, “I’m announcing a series of steps that university will take to align our process for strategic renewal and our financial resources.”

USF has developed a plan with the focus of becoming a top 25 public research university and a series of phases will fully balance the operational budget by 2022.

Hiring and pay raises for USF employees were frozen last month and starting October 2 the president and other members of the leadership team will take pay cuts, but those cuts only make up a fraction of the overall deficit.

“Some steps will be challenging. USF and indeed all of higher education is facing financial challenges from covid-19 that we have never faced before,” Currall said.

To make up the 8.5% loss in state funding, the university has tentatively flagged six main areas for cuts: colleges, academic support, university business support, USF Health, USF St Pete, and USF Sarasota Manatee.

The estimated cost of COVID-19 to USF from march through the end of this year is $31 million but long-term impacts on the state budget and enrollment are still unclear.