Crist reverses himself, approves University Tuition Hike

06/27/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

In a major reversal , Governor Charlie Crist told the Presidents of Florida’s 3 biggest universities, including USF’s Judy Genshaft, that he WILL allow those research schools to raise tuition gradually over the next few years, as long as they wait until 2008 to begin.

The announcement means that Crist will allow the so-called “tuition differential ‘ law to take effect. It gives the University of Florida and Florida State University the ability to raise tuition by as much as 40 percent over time, and USF 30 percent , with a 15 percent maximum each year.

In return, the universities have agreed to hold off implementing the new law until fall of 2008 so that legislators can find the money to offset the student increase.

The announcement is a breakthrough for the state’s top universities, and higher education advocates throughout Florida, who were stung by the governor’s veto of a 5 percent tuition hike approved by the legislature earlier this year.

St Petersburg House Democrat Bill Heller argued strongly that Crist NOT veto the tuition hikes. He told WMNF he was ecstatic upon learning of the news (roll tape#1 o.q.”in this state”)

Last month Governor Crist said he was taken aback by the intense lobbying efforts by the 3 universities, saying, “I’ve been lobbied on issues before but this is ridiculous”.

And he remained steadfast that he would not veto the bill raising tuition at the 3 big state Universities. But in the past few weeks, Crist, who continues to enjoy approval ratings in the 70’s, has been hammered in some editorials for not appearing to want to fund higher education in the state.

University of Central Florida Professor Aubrey Jewett attributes Crist’s conversion to 2 factors…One would be perhaps on the losing side of public opinion, and two, getting an education, from the University presidents (roll tape#2 o.q.”Top notch university system”)

The revenue, over $20-million for each college by 2010, will allow the universities to improve their crowded bachelor's degree programs by hiring additional professors and academic counselors.

When saying he would veto the tuitition hikes, Governor Crist said he was looking out for the students, and what they could afford. But St Petersburg Representative Bill Heller, who has worked in higher education most of his adult life, said by raising tuition, the governor is also helping out the students – especially in the coming years (roll tape#3 oq.” Right factors”)

Crist’s about face comes after he previously vetoed a 5 percent tuition hike to all 11 Universities in the State system. After that happened, Florida State University President TK Weatherall said FSU would impose a cap on student enrollment. Crist said on Wednesday he was hoping to avoid those steps at the state’s top research schools.

University of Central Florida Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett, whose school was one of the 11 that failed to get that tuition hike, said Governor Crist (roll tape#4 o.q.”money to hire”)

Supporters have said that by the 2010-2011 academic year, the fee could raise more than $70 million dollars to pay for more faculty, specifically for undergraduates.

The fee would not be covered by the state's Bright Futures merit scholarships.

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