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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Following months of headbutting over budget cuts with the Florida Board of Governors and the state Legislature, Gov. Charlie Crist has brought in a middleman.

Crist recently appointed Dean Colson as his Special Adviser for Higher Education.

Colson, a 55-year-old Miami lawyer, political adviser and University of Miami trustee, will be a liaison between Crist and the board and Legislature, according to a press release from the Governor's Office.

Colson will join the Board of Governors, the State University System's highest governing body, at its meeting Sept. 27, according to a press release from the board.

Carolyn King Roberts, the board's chairwoman, said in the board's release that Colson's appointment is "outstanding news for all of us who are dedicated to higher education excellence."

During a July meeting, the board announced a 5 percent statewide tuition hike despite Crist's veto of it.

Because of a tax deficit, Crist proposed public university-funding cuts of about ,600 per student in September, pending approval of the Legislature.

Bill Edmonds, the board's spokesman, said in an interview Sept. 10 that the board would appeal to the Legislature for a compromise on Crist's recommended cuts.

But the board and Legislature are not always on the same page.

The board joined former Sen. Bob Graham's lawsuit against the Legislature to fight for tuition-setting powers at the July meeting.

Edmonds said the Legislature has historically not fully supported state universities. As a result, Florida's universities have the worst student-faculty ratios in the country.

The Tuition Differential Program was created to raise money to hire more faculty and advisers, and Crist approved it in June. The program will incrementally raise tuition 40 percent over four years, not exceeding 15 percent per year, and will take effect in fall 2008.

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Edmonds called the program's approval a great political achievement for state universities, but said Crist's proposed cuts could leave universities right where they started.

"We look forward to a dialogue with Dean Colson and Governor Crist on ways we can make our State University System stronger," Roberts said in the board's release.

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