Florida college presidents cautious about tuition hikes

11 public university heads ask for more flexibility to increase rates

TALLAHASSSEE, Fla. – A handful of presidents at Florida colleges asked lawmakers to be cautious when considering tuition hikes.

The comments were made before the Florida House Education Committee on Thursday, which is outlining a set of recommendations on how to overhaul the state's higher education system.

Gov. Rick Scott has pushed for reforms that would place more emphasis on degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, has suggested revamping the governance structure of colleges and universities.

During earlier testimony, some university presidents supported giving schools more power to increase tuition to fund an increased push for the costly degrees.

But some college presidents disagree.

"I don't think that's where we are at all. I think we would like to keep our door as open as we can," said Sandy Shugart, the president of Valencia College in Orlando, according to a news release.

The college presidents said while universities lag behind similar institutions in other states in their tuition rates, colleges rank around the national median.

Shugart added that cuts to federal financial aid is hurting students in the middle of their educations.

Ty Handy, president at Northwest Florida State College, said students in other areas may react different to increased rates.

"It is population, locally-driven. Some people can afford more, but many people can't," said Handy.

The heads of Florida's 11 public universities already asked for more flexibility to increase tuition, said Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, the House Education Committee Chairman.

Proctor added that another group of state college presidents would speak before the committee before recommendations are made.