In the past, Scott has called tuition hikes a “tax” on working families. The average cost of tuition at Florida’s public universities is about $3,000 per year and a 3 percent increase is about $90. Other fees can increase the total cost of college by thousands of dollars.
Lawmakers agreed this year to restore $300 million in funding to the university system, which university presidents said would help them avoid further tuition hikes. They have already pledged not to seek additional increases from the state Board of Governors, which has the authority to increase tuition up to 15 percent.
Schools built their 2013-2014 budgets around the assumption that no new tuition revenue would come their way. University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in April that he understood both sides of the tuition increase debate.
"The House is trying to make the point that for the longer term strategy for higher ed tuition has to be a part of the conversation," he said. "The people who are saying, ’No tuition increase now,’ are saying, ’We just don’t think now is the time to be talking about a tuition increase.’ And you can make a good case, given all the new resources that are coming our way this year, that this might be the year where there wouldn’t be a tuition increase."
Scott’s decision to ask university presidents to support his tuition veto could get him in trouble with the organization that accredits state universities, again. Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, said Scott put the presidents in a tough position by taking a request to them instead of the various boards of trustees.
“He can tell the presidents whatever he wants, but the presidents should be acting based upon the direction that they’re getting from their board not the direction from the governor … to not get into trouble with us,” Wheelan said.
Schools can lose their accreditation if SACS determines that their boards are not operating independently of outside political interference. It was the same concern that caused Wheelan to fire off a letter to Scott when he suggested the Florida A&M University board suspend its president at the time.
When Scott asked Machen to remain as UF’s president, causing an abrupt end to a national search for his replacement, SACS also looked into the matter but found no wrongdoing.
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Toluse Olorunnipa can be reached at tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.com.