In a major reversal from his previous position, Gov. Charlie Crist told university presidents at a meeting in his office Wednesday he will allow the tuition differential sought by the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida to take effect. But he asked them to hold off its implementation until the fall of 2008 so that legislators can find the money to offset the student increase.
"I expressed to them that I wanted to hear what the other eight universities felt about it that weren't included and they represented to me that unianimously they support the legislation,'' the governor said after the meeting. "That was something I had not been apprised of yet."
Crist vetoed the 5 percent tuition hike approved by legislators last session and had threatened to veto the so-called tuition differential that would allow the research universities to incrementally increase their tuition 40 percent over few years with a yearly cap of 15 percent.
Crist said he is also pleased that the universities will first try to find the money for any shortfall in their budgets through the state's general revenue fund before turning to students. He asked them to "give us a shot to work it out through the budget process, rather than the tuition process and they agreed to do that.''
The agreement is a victory for the top universities who have announced they would have to take major budget cuts if they don't get the money they need to continue their programs. Florida universities have one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. FSU has announced an enrollment freeze for next fall and predicts a $120 million shortfall and UF has threatened a similar freeze.