FSA delays priority list

After a full day of discussion, a panel of 11 student body presidents decided to postpone a vote on a legislative priority list Friday, pending an Oct. 24 conference call with representatives of the State University System.

“Too much stuff popped up that we were unsure about,” said Mike Fischer, executive director of the Florida Student Association. “Rather than try and put out something vague, we decided to wait until we had more accurate information.”

Friday’s meeting was held to decide on four issues to be put on a “White Paper” (an authoritative document), which would then be sent to state leaders, possibly in November.

Tuition rate increases, protection of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program and the possibility of a new technology fee for students were among the issues discussed at the FSA meeting in Traditions Hall at the Alumni Center.

A week before the meeting, the Board of Governors, the governing body of the SUS, met at USF and decided to postpone a vote to raise resident undergraduate tuition by 7 percent until its next meeting at the University of West Florida on Nov. 16.

USF student body President Frank Harrison, who chairs the FSA and holds a seat on the BOG, said the BOG chancellor would meet with students from FSA to discuss a more “holistic” approach to decide how tuition should be raised.

Harrison said tuition in Florida is about 6 percent behind the national average, and that is one reason BOG leaders would consider approving the raise.

“We want to make sure we defend accountability and affordability in that system,” Harrison said. “We need to come up with a model for what the state and students should pay for, and what we think a quality education should look like. If we don’t, the state is going to continue to push for more raises.”

Fischer, a graduate of Florida State University, said the FSA historically opposes any tuition increase and is usually met by strong opposition from other BOG members.

“Every time it comes up, we fight it tooth and nail,” Fischer said. “Last year they recommended a 10 percent increase, and we ended up with (a) 3 (percent increase). I was kind of OK with 3 (percent), which put us right around inflation.”

Harrison said a better approach this time would be to try to improve relations with BOG members and have students and SUS leaders act more like partners rather than adversaries.

“We need more facts from the BOG and the state about where the money would be going and how it’s going to affect affordability,” Harrison said.

FSA leaders also discussed the possibility of a proposed bill for a technology fee resurfacing this year, and they presented their own draft of how the bill should look. HB 717, proposed by Florida House Rep. Anitere Flores, called for the creation of a committee to decide how much to raise the fee each year, should it be applied. The committee would be composed of equal parts students, appointed by each institution’s student body president, and university staff, selected by each university president.

Harrison said the reason for the FSA draft was to make sure students had control over how the money would be spent and to assure the fee wouldn’t be used for someone else’s agenda.

“Everybody knows we need more technology,” Harrison said. “The question is how are students involved. The technology fee would need to directly benefit the student body.”