In political showdowns, the constituents of feuding factions rarely win.
Fortunately for students in Florida’s State University System, the Board of Governors’ (BOG) approval of a 5 percent tuition increase Thursday does not seem merely to be a petty power struggle that will ultimately prove fruitless. Rather, the result of the BOG’s move, whether the tuition increase waxes or wanes, will better define the entity’s power and authority, which will ultimately benefit students.
It can only help students, faculty and staff in the SUS to have a definitive answer on who runs the organization. It will thus be best for students, faculty and staff if the results of the tuition increase and lawsuit increase the BOG’s power.
After all, it’s far more likely academics will implement necessary – but unpopular – changes like tuition increases, instead of politicians, who depend on popularity for votes.
Consider the context of the slated increase, and it’s easy to understand why the BOG is right. Like other government agencies in Florida, the SUS has been hit hard by massive budget cuts, reacting to them by slashing classes and capping freshman enrollment.
After the Legislature voted for a minor tuition increase last spring, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it, claiming that an additional $3.68 per credit hour would keep poorer students from reaching their college dreams. This is hardly a defensible position, considering that Florida’s tuition rates are among the lowest in the country.
What followed was that the BOG sued Crist, and many think the legal outcome will indicate who exactly in Florida has the right to set tuition: the Legislature or the BOG.
The BOG’s vote Thursday was a step in the right direction. The agency asserted its role as the governing body of the SUS and its right to govern with the vote to raise tuition.
As reported by the St. Petersburg Times, the BOG’s decision makes good fiscal sense for the SUS. The increase would generate $9.5 million in revenue for the SUS, and a community-college tuition increase discussed in the Legislature that has yet to materialize would generate an additional $11.4 million, the St. Petersburg Times reported.
The BOG should be applauded for voting to give a much-needed boost to a financially strapped State University System.
SUS colleges and universities should comply with the increase to stave off the ills of budget cuts and lend clout to an organization that has the SUS’ best interests in mind.