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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate higher ed committee members say tuition hikes possible



Will holding the line on tuition next year hurt public universities in the long run?

  The state senators who will put together a proposed higher education budget worry it could. Today, members of the Higher Education budget subcommittee said they may be open to raising tuition next year.
They pointed to Florida ’s relatively low tuition and said they worried it would lessen the quality and reputation of the state’s universities.
Universities and colleges will start out operating in a hole – at least a 5 percent decrease -- due to the loss of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money, even if the state were to keep their budgets level-funded.
Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) said keeping “artificially low tuition” means the state “would provide a first-class ticket to a second-class education.”
Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) said that if the legislature fails to give universities the opportunity a way to keep up with the costs “I think our state universities, in particular, are going to suffer.”
More than half of Florida State University students, for instance, pay nothing for their education, thanks to a combination of state and federal grants that cover tuition and fees, according to Sen. Evelyn Lynn ( R-Daytona Beach ).
The legislature can raise base tuition and also give individual universities the authority to raise their tuitions again. But the two increases together can’t be more than 15 percent.
Last year, the legislature increased the base tuition by 8 percent and most universities opted to go up another 7 percent. A good chunk of the tuition increase approved by individual universities – about 30 percent – must go back to financial aid, so it doesn't raise as much money for operations as does as increase in the base tuition.
Committee members did not discuss how much they’d be willing to increase tuition. New financial figures to be released Friday will help determine how much money the committee will have to work with.
University of South Florida ’s lobbyist, Mark Walsh, said officials have made no decisions about tuition, but “We’re always in favor of any flexibility the legislature will give out board.”
FSU is often featured on college best-buy lists, said Kathleen Daly, assistant vice president in the university’s office of governmental relations.
But without raising additional money, she said, “We can’t sustain that. We’re going to be sacrificing quality.”


[Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 7:02pm]


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