Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

One Way to Avert a Rise in Tuition

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

One Way to Avert a Rise in Tuition

Article excerpt

FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES: Presidents ask for more funding in lieu of increase

TALLAHASSEE -- Knowing Gov. Rick Scott opposes higher tuition, Florida's state university presidents vowed Wednesday not to ask for an increase next year if the Legislature increases funding by $118 million.

The presidents said that sum would be equal to a 15 percent tuition increase, and would be tied to specific goals for each university.

"With an investment provided for our students, we promise not to seek one penny of a tuition increase this year," said University of West Florida President Judy Bense.

The announcement was the higher education administration's opening move in the annual state budget process. It also reflects the ongoing tension between long-running budget cuts to Florida's public college and university system and Scott's push to keep higher education affordable.

The Legislature cut the university system budget by $300 million this year, and the university presidents, representing 12 universities including New College of Florida, said the system has seen a 40 percent cut in state funding over the last five years.

At the same time, tuition has increased annually for students -- although Florida remains well below the national average.

"We cannot continue to tighten our belts without impacting our students," Bense said. "For many of us, that may mean fewer class sections and students waiting longer to graduate."

New College of Florida President Donal O'Shea said his school "very much" favored the proposal, adding that continued cuts are pressuring universities to graduate students on time.

Students also backed the proposal, with Cortez Whatley, a University of Central Florida student and president of the Florida Student Association, saying "we need to keep a college education affordable and accessible to all."

Lawmakers will settle the final spending plan for the 2013-14 budget year when they meet in their annual session that begins in March.

Additional funding

Legislative leaders said Wednesday that they were open to the idea of more funding.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the Senate would seriously consider the proposal. …

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