“FGCU’s continued growth increasingly depends on private donors”
Q: As state funding continues to decline, how does the role of private donors change?
A: FGCU has enjoyed great support from the private sector, but because it’s a public institution, there’s also a widely held belief that we receive adequate support from the state. While we do get state support, it’s been decreasing steadily over the past five years, with an especially dramatic cut this year. Now, less than 50 percent of our operating budget comes from state funding. While that’s more than universities in many states receive, FGCU’s continued growth and development increasingly depend on private donors providing major gifts. The private sector has funded a substantial number of scholarships and some wonderful buildings on campus. The need for such generosity increases as those seeking a college education rises and state funding diminishes.
Q: What’s ahead for FGCU in terms of growth?
A: We continue to see an upswing in enrollment, and new buildings are critical to making that growth possible. The drop in state funding has not been gradual; it’s been precipitous. The corollary is an increase in tuition each of the last five years, although that does not fully offset the budget cuts. Last year, tuition and fees for a full-time Florida resident totaled $5,500. That is still among the lowest tuitions in the country for a state university, and it’s indicative of how we’ve managed to become more efficient.
Because of funding cuts, however, we’ve had to postpone the implementation of some programs and this year face possible layoffs as well. Nonetheless, graduation rates are up. Retention rates are up. Enrollment rates are up. We have been making progress despite the cuts, but we’re dangerously close to seeing a negative impact on the quality of what we have built at FGCU. Once things go downward, they don’t come back quickly. There are quality issues we have to guard against, such as classes that are too large and not offering appropriate degree programs to prepare students for the workforce needed.
Q: How dire is the situation?
A: In 2011-12, we had a banner year for fund-raising, but we now face the most serious financial challenges in the history of the university. The community has been very supportive throughout the 15 years in which FGCU has existed, but people need to know that it’s time to step up, not back off.
Q: What are the university’s greatest needs?
A: A critical and continuing need is money for scholarships. We awarded almost 1,000 scholarships totaling $1.4 million last year, but even more students need financial help this year and we must also be able to attract top students with merit-based scholarships.
HOW TO HELP
For more information about FGCU and ways to get involved, contact the Foundation office at (239) 590-1067.