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State board sides with Gov. Scott, rejects university fee increases

Students attending state universities won't pay any new fees this year, though most still face a small tuition increase.

The state Board of Governors agreed with Gov. Rick Scott to "hold the line on fees" and rejected requests from eight schools to increase the Capitol Improvement Fee that students pay. Most schools had asked for $2 more a credit hour or an increase of roughly $60 a year per student.

The board also turned down requests from Florida A&M and Florida State universities to create a Green Fee that would have paid for environmentally friendly programs. Both schools were asking for 50 cents per credit hour, or $15 a year per student.

"I do think that this is the wrong time" to raise fees, board Chairman Dean Colson said.

Scott had actively campaigned for universities to reject an automatic 1.7 percent tuition hike required by state law. But only two schools -- Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Atlantic University -- agreed.

Although the governor is currently in Paris on a business trip, he has tried to influence the fee debate taking place during the Board of Governor's three-day meeting at the University of South Florida. He sent a letter to board members Wednesday urging them to reject the proposed increases.

Without referencing the governor or his letter, many members agreed that fees should not go up in the fall. 

One reason they cited is limits the governor and the Legislature imposed on the Capitol Improvement Fee. Schools cannot use the money to leverage their borrowing power, and instead have to save up the revenue until they have enough to pay for projects in cash.

That limits schools' ability to build big-ticket items that cost tens of millions of dollars.

Several board members said they should focus on getting that policy changed in the upcoming legislative session before allow universities to charge students more for buildings or projects that may be out-of-reach financially right now.

University presidents argued the money is needed because their list of delayed building and renovation projects is growing after years of declining state revenue. The University of South Florida wants to use the money to create more study space at the student union and library, and Florida International University wants to build a new recreation center.

The board's student representative Carlo Fossi from the University of North Florida, was among the few who backed the fee increases. He pointed out that all of the changes had been approved by student leaders or through campus-wide referendums.

"The students endorse it, and I don’t see why this board will not," Fossi said.

Download Scott letter to BOG on fees