Scott's campaign against university tuition increase crosses line, some say
Gov. Rick Scott is meeting with universities one by one, asking leaders to reject an automatic 1.7 percent tuition increase. Not only are schools declining his request, but some higher education observers are once again accusing Scott of crossing the line. Here is an excerpt from the story in Tuesday's paper:
Seeking to offset an automatic 1.7 percent tuition increase, Gov. Rick Scott is meeting with university leaders one by one and lobbying them to cut tuition rates by an equal amount next year.
It's not working.
The University of Florida and Florida State University boards of trustees voted Friday to reject the governor's offer. Other university leaders have signalled they could do the same this week. And some, like the University of South Florida, want guidance from the state Board of Governors before making a decision.
It's a big loss for Scott, who had all-but-promised no tuition increases next year and who directly or indirectly appoints a majority of university trustees. But university officials, supported by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, say they need additional revenues to begin to compensate for the losses generated by the downturn in the economy and state budget cuts.
"No one likes to raise tuition, but I think the essence for us as a governing board is to make sure we use these dollars wisely, make sure that we deliver value," said FSU trustee Ed Burr.
Scott has called raising tuition a tax increase — even though he approved an 8 percent tuition increase in 2011 — and has been making his case to anyone who will listen. University of West Florida President Judy Bense said she didn't feel pressured during a meeting with Scott last week, though she didn't make any promises.
Bense explained to Scott that UWF lost $30 million in state funding since 2007. Tuition increases helped, but did not do enough to plug gaps in the $85 million budget. UWF would lose $388,000 by rejecting the automatic 1.7 percent tuition increase.
"It probably means four or five faculty positions, it could mean advisers, it could mean many people that we can't hire or that we might have to let go," Bense said.