George LeMieux's View on College Tuition Won't Win Popularity Points in FAU Presidency Bid

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: January 5, 2014 2:20 PM
George LeMieux

George LeMieux

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater may have thrown his name into the ring to become Florida Atlantic University’s next president, but another familiar name in Florida politics -- George LeMieux -- also has his eyes on the top spot at the Boca Raton-based university.

LeMieux, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist and as a U.S. senator from 2009 to 2011, had been rumored to be seeking the position, but things became official on Sunday when he confirmed he would be seeking the same job as Atwater.

LeMieux’s positions on certain aspects of Florida higher education, however, could put him at a significant disadvantage. In 2011, LeMieux said he strongly supported raising tuition at Florida’s colleges, believing it was too cheap to attend college in Florida -- a viewpoint that may not make him easily embraced by Gov. Rick Scott or his Board of Governors.

“The tuition at our universities is way too low,” said LeMieux. “We are the cheapest university tuition system in the country. I send my 4-year-old to Christian school (and) I pay more for him to go to Christian school for a year than kids (spend) for the University of Florida for a year. You’re going to only get what you pay for.”

In May of last year, Scott vetoed a 3 percent increase in Florida college tuition from the annual budget, saying the tuition increase was nothing more than a “tax” on middle-class families in the Sunshine State. A law requiring tuition to keep up with the rate of inflation, however, bumped the prices 1.7 percent for the year.

Tuition increases hit close to home at FAU. While other universities like UCF increased tuition by 1.7 percent on top of various other fees,  officials at FAU decided to offset their 1.7 percent tuition increase with a financial waiver valued at $1.75 per credit hour, which would allow all students at the university to keep their tuition costs the same as they were in 2012-2013.

In an email to his staff, Atwater holds “a unique and special affinity for FAU.” Indeed, Atwater does have close ties to FAU -- two of his children graduated from the university and another is currently attending school there. He also represented the school’s three campuses when he served in the Florida Legislature from 2000 to 2010.

While the current list of candidates includes 48 people who are currently employed in higher education (including the deans of Purdue University, the College of Charleston and the former president of Furman University), FAU has a history of politicians serving as its president.

Former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan served as president of the university from 2003-2009, but left to become chancellor of the State University System. Brogan is credited for a great number of new programs there, including FAU's first-ever comprehensive strategic plan and placing emphasis on partnerships between FAU and leading research organizations like the Scripps Research Institute.

On Monday, FAU’s 15-member search committee is expected to meet to come up with a list of between eight and 10 finalists and will make its final decision by Jan. 17. 

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (3)

10:18PM JAN 6TH 2014
neither lemieux or atwater are fit to be university president's. both would make great lobbyists though.
10:17PM JAN 6TH 2014
neither lemieux or atwater are fit to be university president's. both would make great lobbyists though.
4:04PM JAN 5TH 2014
Funny how Mr. LeMieux's general attitude seems to be 'middle class and poor citizens be damned'! How wonderful it is that he can afford to send his 4 year old to PRIVATE Christian school while the remainder of most of us guide our children to what is affordable AND provides a great education. Both of my sons, as well as my wife are graduates of UCF, thankfully the prepaid tuition program enabled us to utilize the system for our sons. Mr. LeMieux's attitude reflects the "I don't care for the peasants" as well as his complete lack of understand our REAL world. Not many of us have golden spoons, regardless is actually EARNED or handed to us! I cannot believe I'm about to do this since I believe CFO Mr. Attwater is probably a poor choice,however, compared to LeMieux, there is little doubt Attwater would be the consilation as a selection. Too bad there aren't more people with higher and better qualifications, along with someone who has actual experience in leading a learning institution. Instead, the taxpayers are left with a choice of two political hacks who have NOT served us well. I only hope more qualified candidates get on that list of applicants!

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