Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Hurricane-ravaged colleges could be allowed to relax tuition restrictions if enrollments drop

School officials say Gulf Coast State College in Panama City lost 841 students during the spring 2019 semester.
This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration infrared satellite image shows Hurricane Michael approaching the Florida panhandle on Wednesday at 11:40 a.m. It made landfall a few hours later near Mexico Beach as a Category 4 storm and thrashed the Florida Panhandle. (NOAA via AP)
Published Apr. 16

TALLAHASSEE -- After Hurricane Michael hit Northwest Florida in October, a state college in the epicenter of the storm has seen its student enrollment numbers drop.

School officials say Gulf Coast State College in Panama City lost 841 students during the spring 2019 semester. That’s a 15 percent drop in enrollment, compared to the same time last year.

That led Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, to propose a bill that would allow hurricane-impacted state colleges to waive out-of-state tuition fees when they see enrollment drop by more than 10 percent as a result of storms.

“This bill would allow state colleges with a service region in the Hurricane Michael-impacted area to waive out-of-state fees for a period of three years for the purpose of recruiting and retaining students,” Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said Tuesday when presenting Gainer’s proposal to the Senate Education Appropriations Committee.

The proposal (SB 1164) passed unanimously and needs to clear the Senate Appropriations Committee before it can go to the Senate floor. The House version (HB 593), sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, has been approved by committees and is ready to be heard by the full House.

Montford, who has been working to get a Hurricane Michael aid package through the Legislature before the annual session ends May 3, said the bill would be an “invaluable tool” for state colleges crippled by storms. Chipola College in Marianna was also heavily affected by Michael.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she would like to see if it could apply to Florida Keys Community College, which is in Monroe County, where Hurricane Irma made initial landfall in 2017.

“I’m actually wondering why the Keys didn’t think of something like this last year,” said Flores, whose district includes Monroe County.

The proposal would allow state colleges that serve areas directly impacted by hurricanes, and whose enrollment decreased by more than 10 percent as a result of the storms, to waive out-of-state fees for three years.

It is possible that some state colleges may lose revenue by waiving out-of-state fees for dozens of students each semester, but according to a Senate bill analysis, the waiver would also help the institutions recruit new students, who would be required to pay in-state tuition.

The potential fiscal impact of the fee waiver is indeterminate, according to the staff analysis. However, the bill would require institutions eligible to waive fees to report to the State Board of Education the number and value of hurricane-related out-of-state fee waivers granted every year.

As the college bills move forward, lawmakers continue to negotiate a broader Hurricane Michael aid package. The House and Senate budget proposals would direct about $225 million next fiscal year for Michael-related expenses, though many Northwest Florida leaders are seeking more state and federal assistance.

Michael made landfall Oct. 10 in Mexico Beach and caused massive damage in Panama City, Marianna and numerous other communities in the region as it barreled north into Georgia.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Knuhne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The full Senate will vote on the issue Wednesday.
  2. Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018, push petitions for 2020 ban on assault weapons in Florida. (Miami Herald) MIAMI HERALD  |
    After months of glitches, the Department of State is resorting to a paper workaround while ballot initiatives face higher costs.
  3. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.
    The Naples Republican recently refused to rule out a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
  4. Former Pasco County Corrections Officer Wendy Miller, 57 runs towards gunfire with instructor Chris Squitieri during active shooter drills taught by Pasco County Sheriff's Office at Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. These drills are put are a larger training program for the Guardian program that will staff elementary schools with trained armed guards.  LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The change is a reversal of a previous move by the department, which specifically excluded armed teachers from its policy.
  5. Nearly two dozen victims of Jeffrey Epstein voiced their outrage at a hearing in Manhattan on Aug. 27, 2019. EMILY MICHOT | Miami Herald
    In the wake of several nationwide cases dealing with sexual assault and abuse, advocates are pushing Florida to ease its statutes of limitations
  6. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Davie, Fla. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Because Israel is a constitutional officer elected by voters, state law requires that the Senate approve or reject the governor’s decision to remove him from office and gives Israel the opportunity to...
  7. El gobernador de Florida, Ron DeSantis, hace una declaración sobre el hecho de responsabilizar a los funcionarios del gobierno en Fort Lauderdale en el Complejo de Seguridad Pública Ron Cochran el 11 de enero, luego de que nombró al ex sargento de la policía de Coral Springs. Gregory Tony reemplazará a Scott Israel como sheriff del condado de Broward. (Al Díaz / Miami Herald / TNS)
    Several Senate leaders told the Times/Herald they are prepared to accept new evidence during a daylong hearing scheduled for today. They could decide against DeSantis when they vote Wednesday.
  8. District 3 City Council candidates Orlando Acosta, left, and Ed Montanari. Scott Keeler, Chris Urso
    The St. Petersburg City Council races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Partisan politics are leaking into the campaign anyway.
  9. Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, while a federal judge heard arguments for an against the the Legislature's bill implementing Amendment 4. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    It’s unclear how state and county officials plan on complying with the judge’s order, however. The “poll tax” issued wasn’t addressed, either.
  10. The Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The job entails being a part-time lobbyist, part-time expert on the Florida Sunshine Law.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement