TALLAHASSEE — The biggest budget controversy in higher education this session was the Senate's proposed split of the engineering school shared by Florida A&M University and Florida State University.
The House refused to approve $13 million for a separate engineering school at FSU, which Sen. John Thrasher successfully inserted into the budget.
The compromise approved this week is being applauded by the FAMU community: $500,000 for an independent study of the program and agreeing that the Board of Governors, not the Legislature, will have the final say on any changes.
The board will have the option of keeping the status quo or creating engineering programs at each school.
"Slowing down was the best thing to do and this Legislature made the right decision in taking time to really evaluate the interests of both universities," said Sean Pittman, a lobbyist for FAMU.
The education budget includes more than $254 million in state funding for universities and $108 million for community colleges. But several schools received even more money in supplemental funding lists that were made public late Monday.
For example, the Senate added $2 million to the $8 million already in the budget for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg business school.
The Senate's list also included $1.8 million toward completion of a student academic center at Florida International University, which had already been allocated $5 million.
The House's additional funding list provided $2.5 million toward science, technology, engineering and math enhancements at FAMU.
Probably the biggest higher education question — tuition — is unsettled as several bills continue to make their way through the legislative process. There are two main issues: whether universities will receive automatic hikes to keep up with the rate of inflation in years the Legislature doesn't increase tuition and whether the Board of Governors will continue to have the ability to boost tuition beyond what the Legislature determines.