After repeatedly saying he was against raising tuition at Florida’s colleges and universities, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed the state’s top two universities to hike tuition at will.
The state already allows public institutions to raise tuition up to 15 percent a year. But Florida State University in Tallahassee and University of Florida in Gainesville would have been able to raise fees even more in an effort to bring costs in line with the country’s other top tier research institutions.
In his veto letter, Scott noted the difficulty many students and families already have paying for higher education. Scott wrote, “I have strong concerns for the debt burden on our students and the number of graduates struggling to find jobs within their fields of study.” Scott went on to say, “I do not feel that I can sign this bill into law without a more detailed plan to ensure the increased tuition requirements on Florida students will provide the return they and other Floridians need on their additional investment.”
In an email to faculty and staff, Florida State University President Eric Barron said the bill would have allowed UF and FSU to move toward making sure students always graduate from a highly ranked university. “There is no doubt that this will slow our plans, given that the Legislature continues to take away resources. Obviously, I am disappointed,” wrote Barron. “I believe that Florida’s two world-class universities would have been able to make a significantly higher impact on economic development, job creation and innovative research — all of which would lead to greater opportunities for our students.”
University of Florida President Bernie Machen issued a statement saying, “This legislation presented the University of Florida with a pathway toward excellence and would have enabled the great State of Florida to have two world-class universities,” Machen wrote. “Our state, expected to become the third largest in the country, deserves to lead the nation in innovative thinking, cutting edge research, economic development, job creation and exceptional quality of life – all things that come from great universities.”
Others in the higher ed system also chimed in. Board of Governors Chair Dean Colson said, “I am very disappointed that the Governor vetoed a bill that enjoyed widespread support and would have elevated our university system to greater national prominence — something that would benefit all Floridians. Hopefully, someday soon, the State will decide to provide our universities with the tools they need to compete on a national stage.”
State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said, “This legislation focused more on greater accountability and flexibility for our universities, both of which are critically important to the Board of Governors.” Brogan said that regardless of the veto, “the Board will maintain its advocacy for increased investment in Florida’s universities.”
The governor’s veto letter included two steps for the State University System moving forward. He said the Board of Governors must develop a clear and distinct mission plan tied to degree production and geographic location for each university. The Board must also begin a review of each university to identify potential cost savings and efficiencies.