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House offers help to colleges after storms

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With Northwest Florida still reeling from Hurricane Michael, the House on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal that could help state colleges that lose enrollment because of hurricanes.

The bill (HB 593), sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, would allow state colleges that serve areas directly impacted by hurricanes, and whose enrollment decreased by more than 10 percent as a result of the storms, to waive out-of-state fees for three years.

The bill is aimed at helping the colleges recruit new students by waiving the higher fees for people who do not live in Florida.

The bill comes about six months after Hurricane Michael caused massive damage in Northwest Florida. Gulf Coast State College in Panama City lost 841 students during the spring 2019 semester, school officials say. That’s a 15 percent drop in enrollment, compared to the same time last year.

The Senate version of the bill (SB 1164) is ready go to the Appropriations Committee.