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Veto likely for tiered tuition bill

The governor is wary of a bill that would allow UF, FSU and USF to raise tuition.

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published May 6, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - The most significant education change to come out of this year's legislative session was the tiered tuition system that lawmakers approved for Florida's top three research universities.

Unfortunately for hopeful leaders at the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida, the landmark "differential tuition" bill is also the most likely thing to die by the governor's veto pen.

"I haven't decided for sure, " Gov. Charlie Crist said Saturday. "But as you know, I'm not enamored to the idea."

The bill would allow UF and FSU to charge incoming undergraduates up to 40 percent more than the base tuition for state universities starting this coming fall. USF could charge up to 30 percent more.

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

Crist, a 1978 FSU graduate, said before the session began that he doesn't want to raise the cost of a higher education in Florida. But in the days since lawmakers approved the tuition overhaul, Crist has refused to say for sure whether he'll veto it.

As was the case Saturday, though, Crist's comments always lean more toward veto than approval.

Even university lobbyists concede the chances of the bill becoming law are low. They spent the final week of the session fretting and strategizing about how to change the governor's mind.

Crist also is expected to veto a 5 percent statewide university tuition increase tucked into the proposed $72-billion budget headed his way.

"I'm just worried about the idea of putting that extra burden on families and students, " Crist said.

Colleges saw a number of "firsts" from the session.

High graduation rates will be rewarded with extra state funding, and universities can apply for grants through a $35-million program to help commercialize research, as UF did with Gatorade years back.

"To change the direction of our economy, from a service economy to a high-tech research economy, " said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach. "That was the emphasis."

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3403 or svansickler@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

 

Other education changes

Merit Award Plan: Replaces STAR, the contentious bonus program adopted last year. Awards $147.5-million in bonuses to teachers and principals based on students' standardized test results and teacher evaluations.

Daily PE: Requires all K-5 students to take 30-minute physical education courses daily.

Career education: Requires all high schools to create industry-certified career education courses tied to local economic needs.

Steroid testing: Creates a one-year pilot program to randomly test high school wrestlers, baseball and football players for anabolic steroids.

Differential tuition: Allows UF, FSU and USF to charge incoming undergraduates between 30 percent and 40 percent more in tuition than the statewide base tuition.

Research: Creates a grant program to help universities commercialize and market their research.