Setting tuition at state universities was a little like eBay at the Board of Governors meeting Thursday in Orlando.
Universities put in their requests — but the 17-member Board of Governors bid them up and down all afternoon.
The University of Central Florida asked for a 15 percent increase — the board said no. Florida Gulf Coast asked for a 15 percent increase, but wound up with 12 percent. New College of Florida got a 15 percent raise.
The board proposed a 15 percent increase for Florida State University — it failed. Then they tried a 14 percent hike — spiked again.
The board then proposed a 13 percent increase, which failed without a majority on an 8-8 vote.
That’s when Florida State University president Eric Barron put his foot down.
“That’s an amazing message to the faculty and the students,” Barron said, “that the ranked universities in this state will get the least resources to advance students. Those are the universities that provide the highest income to students. Those are the universities that are supposed to keep the best and the brightest students in this state.”
That’s when board member Norman Tripp spoke up.
“Mr. Chairman, I change my vote.”
“Great,” Barron responded.
“Whew,” someone whispered over the televised feed.
The panel was struggling to find a way to meet Gov. Rick Scott’s mandate to keep state universities affordable.
The board rejected UCF’s request before moving to low-hanging fruit in the University of Florida’s lowest-in-the-state 9 percent tuition increase. The board took a break after struggling to find a compromise for the University of South Florida.
The governors started approving increases when they returned, but with little rhyme nor reason. Board member Ava Parker said it seemed as if they were picking numbers from a hat.
“Certainly there doesn’t seem to be — and maybe you guys said there was never any method to our madness — but there seems really not to be any method to our madness now,” she said.
“Is it that we start high and then we just kinda keep going down until we get to a number we can all agree to?”