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Rick Scott's "Finish in Four" tuition bill passes Senate committee

A higher education proposal pushed by Gov. Rick Scott -- freezing tuition for incoming state university students -- sailed through the Senate's Education Committee today along with several other closely watched measures.

If SB 920 becomes law, in-state students who enroll in a state university would be guaranteed that their tuition and fees would not change for four years. Scott is pushing his "Finish in Four" plan as a way to control costs for families and encourage students to finish degrees in a timely fashion.

The change could cost universities as much as $75 million in lost revenue, according to a staff analysis of the bill. Georgia to abandon a similar "Fixed for Four" program several years ago because of the financial hardship it caused state universities during the economic downturn when coupled with state budget cuts.

Other higher education proposals approved by the Senate Education Committee today:

  • -SB 680: Repeals a 2011 law requiring incoming college students to fill out a federal financial aid form in order to receive Bright Futures scholarships. Students say the measure has increased paperwork and workloads, but it was intended to help reel in Bright Futures costs by ensuring school recovered as many federal dollars as students qualified for.
  • -SB 1720: This sweeping higher education bill includes language that would grant the University of Florida and Florida State University pre-eminence status, although it doesn't have the same tuition-setting freedom as the measure Scott vetoed last year. The highest ranking school, likely UF, would also set up an online arm that would serve as a lead for the entire state university system in distance learning. It also includes the same financial aid application repeal as SB 680.