In a rare show of unanimity, Florida’s university presidents say they won’t pursue a tuition increase this year if the state will give them more funding.
The presidents came together at the Capitol Wednesday to announce the Aim Higher Campaign.
“Fundamentally, the system is underfunded…compared to the rest of the country,” University of North Florida President John Delaney said.
“Approximately 30 percent is spent less in Florida than compared to the national average on each student,” Delaney said.
Judy Bense, president of the University of West Florida (UWF), said the universities would not “seek one penny of a tuition increase this year” in return for a $118-million infusion of cash from the state.
“Our students and families have been investing more and more in their education during these last four to five years of severe reductions in the state budget,” Bense said. “They have paid the needed and necessary tuition increases. That is not a sustainable path in the long-term.”
Bense said universities have saved millions of dollars by eliminating programs and consolidating others. There’s no more room for more belt-tightening, she said, without impacting the quality of the programs.
If the state ponies up the money, universities would be held accountable for achieving specific goals and improving graduation rates.
Florida State University President Eric Barron said lawmakers need to make higher education funding a priority during the next legislative session.
“This is just too important in terms of economic development, in terms of the success of our students,” Barron said. “If you continue to cut, it will take students a longer time to graduate. That’s the biggest tuition increase that I can imagine.”
Cortez Whatley stopped by the news conference before heading off to study for a final exam. He is student body president at the University of Central Florida and the student representative on the Florida Board of Governors.
“Students are key to Florida’s future and continued success,” Whatley said. “It is imperative that we adequately invest in higher education, and thus in businesses and communities in Florida as a whole.”
In response, Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement saying, “We are pleased to share this important goal with many of Florida’s finest higher education leaders who are committed to holding the line on tuition. We look forward to working closely with them as we put together a proposed budget and other policies for the upcoming legislative session.”
Florida’s 12 state universities enroll 330,000 students.