University board sides with Rick Scott, says no to fee increases

The board that oversees the state university system mitigated a slight tuition increase for most schools on Thursday when it rejected a series of proposed fee hikes. Members of the Florida Board of Governors agreed with Gov. Rick Scott to “hold the line on fees” and turned down requests from eight schools to increase a Capitol Improvement Fee. Most schools had asked for $2 more a credit hour or an increase of roughly $60 a year per student.

Florida International University, which withdrew its fee increase request prior to a vote, wanted to build a new recreation center.

The board also rejected requests from Florida A&M and Florida State universities to create a “Green Fee” to pay for environmentally friendly programs. Both schools were asking for 50 cents per credit hour, or $15 a year per student.

“I do think that this is the wrong time” to raise fees, board chairman Dean Colson said.

Scott had actively campaigned for universities to reject an automatic 1.7 percent tuition hike required by state law. But only two schools — Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Atlantic University — agreed.

Although the governor is currently in Paris, he has tried to influence the fee debate taking place during the Board of Governor’s three-day meeting at the University of South Florida. He sent a letter to board members Wednesday urging them to reject the proposed increases.

Without referencing the governor or his letter, many members agreed that fees should not go up in the fall. Some fees will increase regardless because they are set by individual universities.

University presidents said the money is needed because a list of building and renovation projects is growing after years of declining state revenue. USF wanted to use the money to create more study space at the student union and library, and Florida International University wanted to build a new recreation center.

The board’s student representative Carlo Fassi from the University of North Florida, was among the few who backed the fee increases. He pointed out that all of the changes had been approved by student leaders or through campus-wide referendums.

“The students endorse it, and I don’t see why this board will not,” Fassi said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly the number of schools the Florida’s Board of Governors had rejected for Capital Improvement Fees. Florida International University withdrew its request to increase the fee shortly before the vote. .