Lawmakers agree to 3 percent tuition increase

TALLAHASSEE --  Florida lawmakers agreed late Friday night to hike tuition at the state’s colleges and universities by 3 percent next year, defying Gov. Rick Scott’s call to keep tuition level.

“We want to make sure every student can afford to go to college, but we want to make sure universities have enough money to run successfully,” said Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who referred to the increase as “modest.”

Negron said that he believed the tuition increase was offset by increases that the Legislature also agreed to Friday night to increse funding for the scholarship program Bright Futures, which pays a large chunk of the tuition and fees for the state’s highest achieving students, and the Florida Residence Access Grant, a need-based scholarship.

“We’ve made a number of wise investments in making sure that students in Florida can attend college,” Negron said. “So I think that far outweighs the modest tuition increase. “

But the agreement between the House and Senate flies in the face of the governor’s desire to hold tuition rates down.

Earlier this week, Scott criticized the tuition increase proposal floated by the House. Originally, the House wanted to increase tuition 6 percent, but the Senate would only agree to a 3 percent bump.

Scott said that “Florida families can’t afford it.”

“Every time they raise tuition, it impacts the poorest families in our state and their ability to go to college,” Scott said.

Florida tuition has long been considered some of the cheapest in the nation, with university presidents begging the legislature for years to raise the rates.

According to the College Board, Florida’s average rate for  tuition this year was $6,232 .

Negron said he did not fear a veto from Scott, though, adding that the two chambers had beenw working “very carefully” with him.

Leading lawmakers are in the final throes of negotiating the 2013-2014 budget and the tuition increase was one of the major issues dividing the House and Senate. 

They will continue to meet throughout the weekend. The legislative session ends May 3.

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