FGCU Board Chair on Legislative Funding
When the Florida Legislature ended its regular session, the proposed budgets included severe cuts for state universities. The House budget contains $118 million in cuts and the Senate budget has $38 million in cuts. Florida Gulf Coast University would sustain a $2.3 million budget reduction under the House budget and $600,000 under the Senate budget. FGCU is a young and developing institution, in the midst of building student enrollment, program offerings, facilities, and services. A budget reduction at this time is clearly reason for deep concern.
As chairman of the Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees, I urge the legislature to find a long-term solution to the state’s budget challenges without dealing an irrevocable financial blow to the universities. FGCU could not easily recover from severely curtailing enrollment, cutting programs, and freezing positions. The investment in the growth of this institution has been too great to risk it now by turning away the very students that were recruited so heavily. And yet, if the legislature does not fund growth, the University cannot accept more than 750 freshmen students. At FGCU 129 students are on the wait list, and the number increases every day.
Growth for FGCU is critical if it is to become a viable institution offering a healthy range of programs and services to meet the demands of the region. Growth is not optional; it is required to generate the level of funding necessary to support a curriculum and programs regularly requested by students. The state has invested heavily in FGCU. The people of Southwest Florida have supported the new university and it has become the school of choice for students in our five-county district.
I urge the legislature to support our efforts to develop this university for Southwest Florida and beyond by funding enrollment growth. At minimum, restore funding for 3,000 FTEs, although we have surpassed that number by 300 already.
I hope we can depend on our legislators to do everything possible to fund adequately one of the most important economic engines of the region, Florida Gulf Coast University.
Scott Lutgert, Chairman
FGCU Board of Trustees