UF, FSU tuition hikes threaten Fla. prepaid future

Bill passed by legislature would allow flagship universities to charge more

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The businessman credited with starting Florida's popular prepaid tuition plan is saying the newly passed university tuition bill that awaits the governor's signature threatens the program's future.

The bill just passed by the Legislature allows the University of Florida and Florida State University to set higher tuition rates than the state-imposed annual cap of 15 percent. Other universities could to do the same thing If they could meet a set of standards.

Historically, tuition increased 5-6 percent per year, but in recent years, it's gone up the maximum allowed annual rate. Under the new law, the state's flagship universities could charge whatever the market will bear.

Stanley Tate, a Miami businessman involved with the creation of Florida Prepaid in 1988, said allowing different universities to charge widely different tuition threatens the plan's ability guarantee that any student in the program can attend any state school.

More than 1.4 million prepaid plans have been purchased over the last 23 years.

While existing prepaid contracts must be honored, there is concern about students who have not signed up for the program.

Ciara Viner, who attends the University of North Florida, said the new law could prevent millions from enrolling.

"I think they want so much from us, and they tell us that we have to have degrees and we have to pay for college, but yet they're going to take all our means away to pay for it," Viner said. "They're making it more and more unattainable for us, and they're limiting our options."

College student Braxton Linton said existing expenses prevented him from going to FSU -- his school of choice.

"Right now, I'm spending at least $1,500 a semester, that's not even including books," Linton said. "Over the years, I'll probably spend way more than that."

While both houses of the Florida Legislature passed the tuition bill, Gov. Rick Scott may not sign it.

"I don't believe in tuition increases, so I am going to look at that every closely," Scott told the Associated Press.

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