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Market-rate tuition bill moved to third reading in the House

The bill that would give the University of Florida and Florida State University more power to set higher tuition is moving quickly through the House, sailing to third reading shortly after it was taken up on Thursday.

Proponents in both the House and Senate have said the proposal will allow Florida's top universities to better compete with top universities across the nation. They point to Florida's low tuition as justification for giving the universities that flexibility.

“What we have here is a bill, members, that would give us a chance to elevate our research institutions,” said Bill Proctor, chair of the House's higher education committee.

What he didn't say is that while moving this bill forward, both chambers are proposing massive state funding cuts to the university system for the fifth year in a row.

The bill requires that universities meet 11 of 14 benchmarks before getting that additional tuition-setting power. UF meets all of them. FSU meets 11. If it became a reality, the universities' boards of trustees and the Florida Board of Governors would still have to sign off on any new increases.

But before it gets to that point, the bill would need to make it past Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen. And Scott has said repeatedly that he opposes any new tuition increases.

-- Kim Wilmath and Tolu Olorunnipa

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