Four or more years

Florida college students can breathe a little easier this fall thanks to Gov. Jeb Bush’s veto of two bills Thursday that could have increased tuition costs for the 2005-06 academic year.One of the axed bills would have charged students for taking too long to graduate, while the other would have made it harder to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

If the bills had passed, students taking more than 120 credits would have faced an additional 75 percent surcharge on their tuition bills.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, both bills were created after state audits suggested that a majority of students take at least six years to graduate and said that community colleges weren’t doing enough to ensure that students were indeed Florida residents.

Bush’s reasoning for striking down these bills had to do largely with the bills’ application to community college students and the hardships that an increase in tuition would cause.

“These students are seeking a higher education and additional skills in order to enhance their contributions to society,” Bush wrote. “Requiring these students to pay an excess credit-hours surcharge may increase their dropout rate. I am not willing to take this risk and potentially jeopardize the dreams of thousands of individuals seeking a higher education through our community college system.”

But in the Tallahassee Democrat, State Senator Lee Constantine explained why he felt the bills were needed.

“Stopping students who don’t need to be in school from taking space from students who can get in is good public policy,” he said.

In his veto message Thursday, Bush said that community college students are often older, or are working full time, or are raising a family on a limited income.

However, the governor was not opposed to the bill entirely.

“I think the governor liked the spirit of the bill,” said Mike Fischer, director of the Florida Student Association. “Whenever you’re dealing with higher education, there are consequences that you don’t think about. It’s hard to write a bill that doesn’t affect all students.”

Since many USF students are non-traditional students, the average age of an undergraduate being 23, USF shares similar characteristics with community colleges.

Despite the veto, neither bill is completely dead, Fischer said.

“I do expect that the bill will resurface next year, Fischer said.

If and when this happens, the FSA will again lobby against them.

“We’re against anything that changes tuition to be more costly,’ Fischer said. We were against (the excess credits) whole heartedly.”