Frank Brogan: University Tuition Deal Isn’t a Firm ‘Line in the Sand’

By: Jim Turner | Posted: December 7, 2012 3:55 AM
Frank Brogan and Bill Galvano

Chancellor Frank Brogan and Sen. Bill Galvano | Credit: Rick Flagg

A proposal by university presidents to trade tuition increases for an increase in state funding won’t be a simple pass-fail proposal through the Legislature.

Gov. Rick Scott may have applauded the presidents' proposal on Wednesday because he has opposed across-the-board tuition increases. But he didn’t embrace the $118 million the presidents say is needed to cover the money they would otherwise collectively project tuition would produce for the 2013-2014 school year.

Also, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said too much is still up in the air about the state’s budget.

“We heard their message yesterday, we understand where they are coming from, matching the 15 percent (maximum allowed tuition increase) with the $118 million request,” Galvano said.   

“But I think we need to start from the beginning, work systematically, and I’m not holding out in giving flexibility for tuition increases nor am I committing to funding $118 million.”

Galvano noted that after state economists gave dire warnings on Wednesday about potential impacts to the state’s economy -- eurozone recession, U.S. economy going over the fiscal cliff and the Florida Supreme Court ruling in favor of the unions in the law requiring state workers to chip in 3 percent toward their pension -- in the coming months, before any commitments can be made about setting funding now for the 2013 session “there are variables we are watching very closely.”

State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said the request comes in response to $800 million in cuts by legislators to the university system the past six years, of which about half the money has been restored through tuition increases.

Last session, legislators used $300 million from university reserves to balance the state budget.

“Nobody looks forward to raising tuition, so what we’re saying is ‘here is an opportunity to give students a break,’” Brogan said. “If we’re successful, we’ll be able to take the year off on any tuition increase.”

On Wednesday, students and presidents from eight of the state’s universities held a media event in the Capitol rotunda with their request for $118 million in additional funding in the 2013-2014 school year and its accompanying tuition trade-off.

The proposal is backed by leaders at all 12 of the state’s universities.

Brogan agreed the proposal puts state legislators on the spot, but said any amount over the current funding would decrease the amounts the schools would need for tuition increases.

“I never want members to believe this is a 'line in the sand' issue that says ‘we’re hurling the gauntlet; if we don’t get $118 million, you’re going to see significant tuition increases,’” Brogan said.  

But Brogan, who said the system continues to review the campuses for ways to trim fiscal fat, views the funding as a step in building up the worth of a Florida university system degree on a global scale.

“Everybody has done an amazing job over the last half-dozen years reducing the size of their budgets,” he said.

“Most of those cuts have come from outside the classroom: in administrative reductions; greater efficiency in academic programming; energy issues; purchasing issues. They’re all going to continue to look at those for ways to keep down that side of the house.”

Brogan said he and education lobbyists will be individually meeting with legislators to flesh out the proposal and see where the elected officials stand.

The proposal wouldn’t hinder any other to raise tuition for science, technology, engineering and math programs that state leaders consider a priority for helping improve the state’s work force and economic outlook.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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