House wants 6% tuition hike ‘to keep pace'
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 3:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 at 3:52 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — The House is pursuing a 6 percent tuition increase for state universities and colleges next year, despite opposition from Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate's decision not to back a tuition increase.
House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said Monday that House leaders think the tuition hike is appropriate, given the financial needs of the schools and the fact that Florida's tuition remains low compared to other universities and colleges nationally.
The tuition proposal will be part of the budget documents House appropriations subcommittees will release later this week.
Florida's tuition and fees for a public four-year university were ranked 41st in the annual survey released by The College Board last fall. Florida's average annual cost of $6,232 was well below the national average of $8,655 — although Florida has had one of the steepest increases over the past five years at 67 percent, exceeded only by Arizona and California.
Tuition and fees at Florida's 28 state and community colleges are also among the bottom tier of states at $3,100 a year for two-year degrees, according to The College Board.
McKeel said the House is supporting a tuition increase to prevent Florida's 12 universities from "falling further and further behind their peers throughout the country."
"I just think we need to keep pace," McKeel said.
The Senate is not including a tuition increase in its budget plan, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.
Both the House and Senate are restoring a $300 million cut that the universities took this year. Additionally, the Senate is advancing $58 million in funding for universities and colleges linked to generated degrees for high-demand jobs and $30 million for a research initiatives for the universities.
The budget proposal "has been very well received by the universities," Galvano said, adding that higher education officials had not asked him to include a tuition increase.
The House's tuition hike will put the chamber on another collision course with governor, who has been adamant about keeping tuition low.
Scott has been promoting a $10,000 degree program for the state colleges and advanced a bill for this session that would guarantee university students no tuition increases if they graduated in four years.
At a meeting of the Board of Governors in Sarasota in November, Scott likened a tuition increase to a tax hike.
"I'm concerned about tuition. I think it's a positive that our tuition is lower than in other states," Scott told the board that oversees the state universities. "I want to make sure we continue to have a state where we have lower taxes and a lower cost of living."
McKeel said differences over tuition with the governor and Senate were part of the budget-negotiating process. "We'll sort it all out at the end of the day," he said.
"There's more that we agree with the governor on than we disagree on," McKeel said. "We still think it should be part of the mix."
Last year, the Legislature approved a 5 percent tuition increase for state colleges, but no base tuition increase for the universities.
However, the universities have the authority to raise tuition on their own — subject to approval by the Board of Governors — up to 15 percent a year, offset by any base tuition increase.
In the summer — despite opposition from Scott — the Board of Governors approved the so-called "differential tuition" increase for the universities, with most getting 15 percent. However, there were some exceptions including the University of Florida at 9 percent, Florida State University at 13 percent and Florida A&M University at 12 percent.
If lawmakers approve a tuition increase or the universities raise the differential tuition, this fall would mark the 18th consecutive year for tuition increases for Florida university students. The last budget year without a tuition increase was in 1995-96.