Three percent tuition hike tucked into Florida budget

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauApril 26, 2013 

— Florida lawmakers Friday agreed to increase tuition for university and college students by 3 percent, setting up a possible clash with Gov. Rick Scott.

Last year, Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University the freedom to raise tuition. Scott has not said he would veto a tuition increase this year. After the deal, which came during budget negotiations, a Scott spokeswoman would only say that the governor doesn’t support a tuition increase.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he doesn’t believe Scott will veto the increase.

“I don’t think there’s an issue of confrontation,” Negron said. “Tuition in Florida is a huge bargain. We’re the fifth or sixth lowest in tuition. We want to make sure every student can afford to go to college, but we need to make sure the universities have enough money to run successfully.”

In exchange for a tuition increase, Negron said the House met Senate demands to increase Florida Student Access Grants by $3 million and funding for Bright Futures scholarships by 3 percent.

“We made a wise investment so students in Florida could attend college, and that far outweighed the modest tuition increase,” Negron said.

Regardless of how confident Negron was, others aren’t so sure.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen said earlier this week that he is not counting on a tuition boost even if the state budget includes one, because of the likelihood of a Scott veto.

For good reason.

In 2007, after lawmakers agreed to a 5 percent increase, then-Gov. Charlie Crist famously vetoed it. Some argued that he didn’t have the authority to reject the tuition increase while leaving the rest of the budget intact and that it could have been overturned in court. But no one challenged Crist on it.

While negotiation next year’s budget, the House and Senate made headway on some K-12 issues, too.

They agreed to spend $5,200 on each virtual education student.

The chambers also cut a deal to spend an extra $10 million to help school districts in rural districts.

Lawmakers also agreed to spend $190,000 for research into the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Attorney General Pam Bondi requested the money for a team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida to exhume the remains of boys buried in a neglected campus cemetery at the Marianna.

Herald/Times staff writer Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report.

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