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Fee hikes shunned, but Scott’s tuition pitch fails to move universities

by John Kennedy | June 20th, 2013

Only Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University have bowed to Rick Scott’s demand that they shun a 1.7 percent cost-of-living tuition increase, but the Republican governor did manage to get state schools Thursday to drop plans for similarly modest fee increases.

The State University System’s Board of Governors wrapped up three days of meetings at the University of South Florida in Tampa with no real discussion of the tuition bump Scott was looking to avert.

But the 17-member board, now with a majority appointed by Scott, did reject an annual $60 construction fee increase sought by most universities that would have been paid by students.

Scott last month stepped-up his focus on student costs by vetoing a 3 percent tuition hike approved by the Legislature for Florida colleges and universities. The inflation increase, though, is part of state law and takes effect when no tuition boost is approved.

Only FAU and FGCU have gone along with Scott’s pitch and agreed to reduce their base tuition to offset the inflation bump.

While the increase at other schools looms as an asterisk on what could prove a potent Scott political claim, when classes resume this fall it will mark the first time since 1995-96 that there has not been a significant spike in tuition.

Scott for weeks had been trying to erase even the 1.7 percent rise, sending letters to administrators at the state’s 12 public universities, calling a tuition hike, “a tax increase on our families that must be stopped.”

Although he let tuition increases become law his first two years as governor, Scott dug in this spring — with a re-election campaign on the horizon.

In a last ditch effort Wednesday, while on a trade mission in France, Scott sent another letter to university leaders urging they hold the line on fees.

Scott, who last year allowed a $300 million cut in higher education to become law, said in the letter that he wants to continue moving the system away from a rising reliance on tuition toward rewarding schools with more taxpayer funding for serving students better.

“I look forward to our work together next year to continue shifting the burdens of higher education funding away from the pocketbooks of students and families and onto a system that rewards universities showing results in serving our students,” Scott wrote.

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