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FGCU president says tuition hike needed, cuts inevitable

By Staff | Apr 4, 2009

Florida Gulf Coast University president Dr. Wilson Bradshaw said Friday a tuition hike is needed to offset the inevitable cuts the state’s university system will see next year.
Speaking at the Cape Coral Council for Progress’ monthly meeting, Bradshaw said FGCU’s tuition rate of $3,700 per year pales in comparison to the national average of $6,500.
“With the budget cuts we’re going to have to find some relief somewhere,” Bradshaw said.
FGCU is also making its own cuts, despite its burgeoning growth. The university planned to hire 40 new faculty members for the fall, but will take on 20 instead.
“Some words you haven’t heard from my office are layoffs and furloughs. I think that kind of rhetoric can be alarmist,” Bradshaw said. “While we may freeze some positions . . . I don’t anticipate that we will have any layoffs,” he added.
Bradshaw pointed to the progress FGCU is making in becoming a “comprehensive” university, with 11,000 students, a 25 percent increase in applications from last year, the first graduation of its engineering program, and instituting its first doctoral program in physical therapy.
That progress will not extend to Cape Coral and elsewhere in southwest Florida in the form of branch campuses, at least not for the next few years.
“The board of governors has placed a moratorium on branch campuses, but our intent is not to ignore the interest in the region,” Bradshaw said. “A branch campus is unlikely within the next two or three years, but we don’t want to shut the door on planning for that,” he added.
In the meantime, FGCU will focus on building its home campus in Estero.
The university has also been a “buffer” for the free-falling regional economy, Bradshaw said, commiserating with the business members of the Council for Progress over the current recession.
He riddled off a list of statistics backing his claim — the school accounted for $390 million in expenditures in fiscal year 2008, 5,200 jobs, 1,700 of which are at FGCU, the average salary of those jobs is $55,000.
“In addition to being a driver of the economy, we’re also a buffer for when things go wrong. We’ve all heard the bad news about Southwest Florida . . . but imagine what the economy would be like if we didn’t have FGCU,” Bradshaw said.