House approves tuition hikes for UF and FSUby Dara Kam | March 2nd, 2012
The Florida House signed off on a plan to allow Florida State University and the University of Florida to set higher tuition than the state’s nine other public universities in a move to boost the two institutions’ national prominence.
The passage of the bill (HB 7129) is the latest effort in a decades-long attempt to create a tiered university system, something GOP leaders say is necessary for Florida’s higher ed system to compete with other states’ universities.
The bill allows research universities that meet certain standards – right now, UF and FSU – to charge higher tuition and fees than the other universities and also authorizes those universities to establish required courses for certain students.
Critics of the plan, which the House passed 85-28, say the hikes impose too much of a financial burden on already cash-strapped poor students.
California has seven Association of American Universities “pre-eminent” research universities, while Florida has just one, the bill sponsor Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, said.
“That’s shameful,” Proctor, the chancellor of the private Flagler College and a former member of the state Board of Education. Proctor said his plan will help Florida compete for businesses who want to relocate to regions with premiere research universities.
“Nothing is as important to economic recovery to this state as what you do to the state universities,” Proctor said.
Tuition at UF, FSU and three other universities has climbed 60 percent over the past four years, and 45 percent at five other schools, including Florida Atlantic University. Universities can seek as much as a 15 percent tuition hike each year but require approval for the increases from the universities’ Board of Governors, which has not rejected any university’s tuition request.
Rep. Dwight Bullard, a teacher, called the measure irresponsible.
“If we’re supposed to be up here looking out for the best interests of our constituents, we can’t go about doing tuition increases that large,” Bullard, D-Miami, said.