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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Students may face technology fee

In addition to a 5 percent tuition increase, students could face a new technology fee if Gov. Charlie Crist approves a bill that was introduced by the Florida Senate on Tuesday.

The exact amount of the fee is still unknown, but it could be up to 5 percent of tuition per credit hour.

The Senate will vote on the bill Friday, said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee.

The appropriations committee must approve any fees for Florida's universities before the Senate or House of Representatives can vote.

Individual universities would be able to decide where the money would go, and Lynn said students should have an input.

If approved, the bill would be implemented by fall 2009 and would not be covered by the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

In addition, the Legislature voted to automatically increase tuition if inflation in Florida rises beginning fall 2008.

Crist would ultimately have to approve the tuition hike and technology fee before they go into effect.

He recently indicated he would agree with an increase.

In May, Crist vetoed a 5 percent tuition increase that was approved almost unanimously in a Legislature budget meeting last year, Lynn said

That increase would have taken effect this fall.

Lynn said she was disappointed about the veto because students from across the state had asked her for the increase, which would be used to improve Florida universities' low student-faculty ratios.

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The Florida Board of Governors, the state's highest governing body, announced its own 5 percent spring tuition increase at a September meeting without approval of the Legislature or governor.

The board asserted that it has always had the constitutional authority to raise tuition but deferred that power to the Legislature until now, said Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the board.

Though the board and the Legislature seem to have similar views on the issue, the two bodies are still fighting over tuition-setting power in a lawsuit led by former Sen. Bob Graham.

A circuit court judge will decide on the suit by the end of the year, Edmonds said.

Lynn said she could not speculate on the results of the suit.

The spring startup date for the Legislature's increase would be optional, she said.

She said Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell has already said the university would not adopt a tuition increase until fall 2008.

However, the board's spring increase is mandatory.

It is unknown whether Bright Futures would cover the board's increase since it's controlled by the Legislature.

Despite the two proposals, there will only be one 5 percent tuition increase for students in spring.

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