Student group lobbies governor

The Florida Student Association, which represents the 245,000 college students across Florida, is lobbying Gov. Jeb Bush to veto additional increases above the 5 percent statewide increment.

On May 13, the State Legislature passed an education appropriations bill. The bill contains the annual increase of undergraduate tuition but also contains a provision giving state boards of trustees the option to implement an additional increase in graduate and professional tuition.

If approved, undergraduate tuition for residents and non-residents will increase by 5 percent at Florida’s state schools. Local boards of trustees would also have the option to raise resident graduate and professional school tuition another 5 percent, as well as non-resident tuition by another 10 percent.

David Foy, FSA director, said if each university’s boards of trustees has the option to raise graduate and professional tuition, then it will be asking too much from students.

“Anything over 5 percent is additional and can hurt a student’s and parents’ wallet,” Foy said.

On May 22, the FSA wrote to Bush asking him to veto part of the Legislation’s authorization dealing with additional tuition increases.

The appropriations bill will be presented to Bush for final approval. Foy said the governor has yet to receive the budget from the Legislature. But according to Kathleen Betancourt, associate vice president for Government Relations, the governor has 15 consecutive days from the date of presentation to make any budget decisions.

The FSA supported the legislative decision to increase resident and non-resident undergraduate tuition by 5 percent.

Foy said the FSA committee agreed to the increase because students should pay a reasonable portion of their education.

“There is a law in Florida that says students in public universities have to pay 25 percent of their educational costs and the state has to pay 75 percent,” said Foy. “Students now are paying between 22-23 percent of costs and should be paying 25 percent by state law.”

Zena Abdo, a senior at USF, said the majority of college students are struggling, and many of them do not receive financial aid, loans or scholarships.

“I think we already pay enough between parking and books. We pay enough tuition as it is, even if it is in-state,” said Abdo. “A lot of students might have to cut down on their course load because of it.”

Senior Aisha Sanchez said she is opposed to tuition increases without a corresponding increase in the quality of education.

“Last summer, it was said we’ve had a 25 percent increase over the last 10 years. I don’t see a new Marshall Center, I don’t see new parking garages or anything that would signal to me that my dollars are being put to use,” Sanchez said. “The recent budget cuts, the summer hours for the Library, the cuts in classes for those who need to graduate are actually very despicable. I know that Florida is second or third with the cheapest tuition, and I think we should maintain that unless it can be justified that our money is being used for our good.”

If they are approved, the increases will take effect this fall. But Foy said he is unsure what decision the governor will make at this point.