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Legal Battle Continues over Power to Set Tuition for Florida Universities

5:04 PM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It looks as though a legal fight over who has the power to set tuition at state universities is heading to the Florida Supreme Court.

The issue went before a three-judge panel at the 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

A group of plaintiffs led by former Gov. Bob Graham argues the Florida Board of Governors should have full power for setting tuition and fees. Currently the board shares that authority with the Legislature.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2002 creating the Board of Governors. Plaintiffs' attorney Robin Gibson says that amendment turned over full responsibility of the university system to the board.

Gibson said the 17-member board is in a better position to stabilize the operation of universities.

"So they're not at the mercy of political whims every single year when you have people whose whole careers are hanging on this kind of revenue."

Gibson said the current deal between the board and Legislature to share the power to set tuition does not follow the state constitution. He says lawmakers cannot just discard the will of the people.

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"One thing is for sure. Those folks cannot contract away what the will of the people is, as expressed in their constitution. Doesn't have a thing to do with what's in the constitution."

The Board of Governors was originally part of the lawsuit, but withdrew after it reached a deal with lawmakers to share the power to set tuition last year.

Graham lost the first round in the lawsuit when a circuit judge ruled the Legislature should have that power. The plaintiffs appealed and that sent the issue to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Gibson predicts the issue will end up at the Supreme Court no matter what ruling comes from the appeals court.

First Coast News

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