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Gov. Scott’s tuition increases won’t prove effective

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 01:04

In the cuddly surroundings of an elementary school in Jacksonville, Gov. Rick Scott signed what he called an “education budget” Tuesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times, patting himself on the back for his focus on education.

Yet higher education wasn’t quite so lucky, with the State University System losing $300 million and facing a recommended 5 percent differential tuition increase limit.

The increase was a change from Scott’s previous comments in January, where he said he didn’t “believe in tuition hikes.” However, his plan to lobby the Board of Governors to ensure that universities only increase tuition by 5 percent instead of the normal 15 percent they are typically allowed to request, blindsided administrators across the state and will do little to solve the troubles universities and students are currently in.

Administrators weren’t the only ones who were expecting the usual 15 percent increase in the wake of unprecedented cuts.

According to the Miami Herald, legislators did not recommend a base tuition increase for universities, assuming they would request the full 15 percent increase, and the budget factors in a 15 percent increase to current per-credit-hour tuition rates when listing universities’ projected revenues for the year.

The $70.8 billion state budget cut funding to Florida universities by $300 million, leaving universities to dip into reserve funds to retain their current offerings to students or increase their cost.

“(Scott’s) initial budget recommendation included no reductions to the State University System, and I was delighted at that point in time, because he was a man of his word there,” USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said to The Oracle. “He said he’s not going to cut the budget, so he doesn’t see the need for tuition to increase. What happened is the Legislature moved forward and cut our budget, which he approved.”

Wilcox said USF will receive $145 million in state funding, down $37 million from last year. If the University’s tuition were increased by 15 percent, an extra $17 million would go back into the budget. But a 5 percent tuition increase would only generate an extra $6 million in funding, forcing the University to likely cut course offerings and faculty members.

Scott’s imposed belt-tightening will undoubtedly cut off the circulation of students at Florida universities and is unfair when considering the $1 billion he added to public school spending and $55.2 million given for construction and maintenance of charter schools.

If Scott really wants to benefit Florida’s education system, he has to look beyond K-12 and give universities a fighting chance at keeping the best and brightest students and faculty members in Florida’s struggling economy.

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