New Panel to Decide if Fla. Universities Can Increase Tuition

Winter Haven High School seniors Alec Doherty and Tyler Moedrm are only about a year away from heading off to college.

It's a time when their parents ought to be celebrating their new-found freedom, but instead they could be writing some big and very painful checks.

"Everyone deserves a good chance at education, and I don't think raising the prices is going to help everyone get that equal opportunity," Doherty said.

Monday a Blue-Ribbon panel appointed by Governor Scott began looking at a controversial plan to let Florida universities hike tuition by as much as they want.

The very campus Doherty and Moedrm are touring - Florida State - was in line, along with the University of Florida, to get that unlimited tuition hike authority. That is, until Governor Scott vetoed the plan back in April.

"Think about the cost of higher ed - it's skyrocketed."

Coming as it does on the heels of his tuition bill veto, the governor's appointment of the task force is a clear sign he views tuition as a politically-sensitive topic, and he may well be in search of political cover, not to mention answers about where exactly all the extra tuition would go.

Campus leaders complain classes are overcrowded, meaning many students can't graduate on time, and when they do they walk away with a less-valuable degree.

University System Chancellor Frank Brogan says big tuition increases may be inevitable, but only if they have a good purpose.

"There's a change in the wind out there, and I think people are beginning to look at this issue of tuition, regardless of where they fall on that issue, and recognize it should be more than just asking people for more of their money to do good things, but it has to go to fund a strict business plan."

A plan aimed at giving Doherty and Moedrm what they need to succeed, but they still worry at what cost?

"What's the education if people can't afford to even go?" Doherty said.

Next week the state university system's board of governors will meet to decide whether to sign off on tuition increases for the coming year. The governor's blue ribbon panel plans to release its final report on whether to allow unlimited tuition hikes in October.

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