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Student leaders dubious about tech fee proposal

University presidents want the Legislature to okay a per-credit-hour fee for such technological needs as new computers.

By Associated Press
Published February 4, 2004

ORLANDO - Student leaders from Florida's public universities expressed skepticism Tuesday about a proposed per-credit-hour fee that would pay for technology upgrades on campuses.

Students already face tuition increases in Gov. Jeb Bush's proposed budget. Some say the proposal by the university presidents is a "backdoor" hike.

"No matter which way you slice it, it's a tuition increase," Scott Ross, executive director of the Florida Student Association, said during a meeting of the State University Presidents Association.

Student leaders from Florida's 11 public universities sat with the university presidents to talk about pressing issues facing the schools.

The university presidents said there are urgent technological needs on campus. The fee could pay for new computers, classroom equipment and making campuses wireless. The fee's amount and purpose would be decided by a committee of administrators and students at each university.

University of Central Florida president John Hitt said his school would get about $1-million for every dollar charged per credit hour. Leaders of the Student Association will vote later this month on whether to support the proposed fee, which is on a wish list the university presidents presented Florida lawmakers for the coming legislative session.

"We're not here to say "No. Absolutely not,' " Ross said.

But the students had concerns. They wanted a cap on the fee and for the fee to be included in the aid for students enrolled in the Bright Futures scholarship program. They also were hesitant to allow administrators to use the fee money for bonding purposes that could help the schools fund bigger projects. They worried that the fee would be used for other purposes.

The students also said acceptance of the fee would depend on how much it is. Administrators are proposing a range of $2.50 to $10 per credit hour. Under the proposal, the fee couldn't be increased by more than 15 percent a year.

The governor's budget proposal allocates $2.7-billion for the university system, including $144.1-million more in direct aid than last year's budget. It also calls for a 7.5 percent tuition hike for instate, undergraduate students and a hike of more than 12 percent for out-of-state and graduate students.

One thing the university presidents and the student leaders agree on was their opposition to further standardized testing for Florida's university students to measure what they're learning and hold universities accountable. The idea is being discussed by the Board of Governors, which oversees the university system.

[Last modified February 4, 2004, 01:31:46]


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