Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University to increase tuition by virtually unlimited amounts.
The governor’s action on the measure (HB 7129) turned aside the pleas of higher education officials and business leaders who said it would make the schools more competitive. It’s also in keeping with Scott’s recent emphasis on holding down the cost of living in the state.
“While this decision has not been easy, 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,” Scott wrote in a letter announcing the veto.
Scott called instead for the Board of Governors to craft a plan for each university “tied to degree production and geographic location” and to scour the state’s higher education system for waste and inefficiency.
The governor also said he would begin “a further review of higher education options” next week, though he didn’t specify what that review might include or what the options might be.
While the measure would have initially allowed only UF and FSU to offer plans for raising tuition beyond the 15 percent annual increase allowed by state law, eventually any institution that met 11 of 14 standards spelled out in the bill could submit proposals to do so. The Board of Governors would still have to approve the plans.
Officials with state universities and the board expressed frustration with the decision, especially at a time when state funds for higher education have been dwindling. University president repeatedly emphasized during the debate that Florida has some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.
“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,” Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson said in a statement issued late Friday. “Hopefully, someday soon, the State will decide to provide our universities with the tools they need to compete on a national stage.”
In an email to faculty and staff, FSU President Eric Barron was even more blunt about the effects of the veto.
“There is no doubt that this will slow our plans, given that the Legislature continues to take away resources,” Barron wrote.
In addition to higher education officials, an influential group of business leaders also endorsed the bill. The Florida Council of 100 wrote Scott two weeks ago urging him to approve the measure.
“When 50 to 60 percent of graduates have no debt, and average debt levels are again below those of the nationally preeminent institutions, it becomes a matter of personal responsibility in addition to access,” the letter says. “Market forces can’t optimally drive improved performance if students don’t have appropriate skin in the game.”
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida