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Tuition hikes back on table for Florida universities

Pandemic has Florida lawmakers considering first tuition increase in 7 years

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s been more than seven years since Florida Universities raised tuition. And this year lawmakers face a pandemic induced $2.7 billion decline in revenue, which has them putting tuition hikes back on the table.

At $6,370, university tuition in Florida, before fees, is the second lowest in the nation. Only Wyoming charges less.

“And so our product by any scale comparable is a fraction, in most cases, of other states, and it’s something we’ll have to look at,” said newly sworn in Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Pasco County.

Florida lawmakers face the toughest budget balancing act they’ve seen in a decade. Simpson is an advocate for foster kids and said lawmakers will have to make difficult choices.

“When you start putting priorities together, I’m going to have a higher priority to make sure we’re taking care of those must vulnerable children, and and we haven’t raised tuition in 10 years” Simpson said.

When he was governor, Rick Scott refused to reappoint university trustees who had voted for fee hikes. Now as US senator, he’s weighing in again.

In a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Scott said he will soon file federal legislation penalizing states that hike tuition.

Under his proposal, Scott said, “all federal funding will be cut off if tuition or fees are increased.”

At the other end of the legislature, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said not all degrees should cost the same.

“If they can get online and engage in higher education as a way to help them find a job, then lets make that as easy as possible for them,” said Sprowls, R-Clearwater.

In the end, any tuition hike would have to get the OK from the governor, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has said in the past:

“I don’t want to tax anyone more.”

But that was before the pandemic.

So far, United Faculty of Florida, the union representing professors, hasn’t taken a position on supporting a tuition hike.