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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

University of Florida, Florida State University push for Governor Rick Scott to sign tuition bill

TALLAHASSEE — Administrators from UF and Florida State University met in the state Capitol on Thursday to lobby Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill that would allow both universities to charge market-rate tuition.

The bill, which was passed by the Florida Legislature last month, would allow universities that meet certain criteria to raise tuition by more than the current cap of 15 percent per year.

UF and FSU are the only universities that make the cut right now.

Rep. Bill Proctor, who supports the bill, argued that permitting UF and FSU to raise tuition to market rate would allow them to achieve national pre-eminence. Increasing the quality of education would better prepare students for entering the workforce, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math fields, he said.

“The importance of major research universities to the state and the nation’s economy can not be overstated,” Proctor said in support of the bill.

During his presentation, FSU President Eric Barron said the Top 100 research universities attract $40 billion in federal and corporate research, while the next 550 universities garner only $10 billion.

He noted that the market will protect against “unbridled” tuition increases, and that the goal of market-rate tuition isn’t to limit access to top universities to wealthy students.

Scott asked what UF and FSU plan to do with the extra tuition money.

“The key to quality, from where I sit, is faculty,” said UF President Bernie Machen.

More faculty members will yield more research, which means UF will be able to snag more research dollars, he said.

The governor thanked Machen, Barron and the other university officials for coming to Tallahassee to present their arguments.

“It’s always interesting to get everybody’s perspective when you go through a decision like this because you want to make sure that families in this state can afford a great education,” Scott said.

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He has about a week left to sign the bill, and he said he expects more people to weigh in on the subject before he makes his decision.

“I think he’s seriously trying to do what he thinks is the right thing,” Machen said. “I think it was time well spent.”

Contact Erin Jester at ejester@alligator.org. Contact Joey Flechas at jflechas@alligator.org.

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