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Senator downplays proposed suspension of Florida Prepaid program

TALLAHASSEE — Sen. Evelyn Lynn said Monday she only wanted to give the state some "breathing room" when she pitched a controversial proposal last week to close the Florida Prepaid College program to new participants.

Lynn, an Ormond Beach Republican who heads the Senate's higher education appropriations committee, called for suspending sales of new contracts because she was worried about the state's guarantee of current ones and called the program a "huge liability."

On Monday, she added the word "temporarily" to her draft proposal and gushed over the program's success.

She also released a four-paragraph statement that said she had pitched the idea "to allow the fiscal situation to stabilize and help purchasers be aware of what their current contracts cover and what additional investment products they might need to add to cover the increasing costs of higher education."

The program is the nation's largest and has sold more than 1.4 million plans since 1988, letting parents lock in current tuition and fees for their future students. Nearly 20 percent of undergraduate students at Florida universities have a prepaid college plan.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who serves on Lynn's committee, said he didn't support suspending the program for even a year.

Lynn said she wanted to highlight some confusion over what the plan covers and explore the state's role in guaranteeing the contracts. Universities are eating the costs of the so-called tuition "differential" for prepaid contracts purchased before 2007. The differential is a supplemental increase universities can charge students on top of any base tuition increases approved by the Legislature, as long as the combined increase doesn't exceed 15 percent. Since 2007, families have had the option of purchasing tuition differential contracts to cover that cost.

Lynn said she had not discussed her proposal with Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Senator downplays proposed suspension of Florida Prepaid program 03/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 7:36pm]
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