After saying for months he does not believe in tuition increases, Gov. Rick Scott stuck to his word Friday and vetoed a bill that would have allowed unlimited tuition hikes at top universities.
It comes at a tense time for the state university system, with schools bracing for a state budget cut of $300 million. Even the 15 percent tuition hikes that universities are currently allowed to ask for don’t come close to filling the gap.
Had Scott signed HB 7129, universities that met 11 of 14 performance-based benchmarks would have been allowed to ask the Florida Board of Governors for unlimited hikes. The criteria included things like high GPAs of incoming freshmen and a high amount of research activity. Only the University of Florida and Florida State University would have qualified.
UF and FSU were hoping to use additional revenues to enhance academic programs. They lobbied the Governor hard on that point, putting on a town-hall meeting of sorts in Tallahassee a couple weeks ago to lay out their arguments.
UF President Bernie Machen said he wanted to raise his tuition to the national average, starting with freshmen admitted for fall 2013. UF’s tuition is currently about $5,700 a year. The national average is closer to $8,000. Machen said he would’ve used the money to hire more faculty.
FSU President Eric Barron wanted to use the money to bolster FSU’s programs in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
-- Kim Wilmath, Tampa Bay Times