From the Palm Beach Post-
Wellington grandparents Tony and Joan Ettorre started Florida prepaid college tuition plans for their nine grandchildren in 1993 when the oldest was just 4 years old.I think the $1000 fee is a breach of contract so far as the Florida Prepaid College Plan goes. Would this fee stand up in a court challenge? As I've blogged so often in the past, anything goes so far as Florida's courts are concerned. Hopefully Crist will impose reason on the State University system, otherwise who will trust the state or any of its institutions in the future when it comes to contractural obligations with its citizens.
More than a decade later, they've got tuition for all of the kids paid off and are making a dent in future college fees through another Florida Prepaid College Plan that sets them back about $170 a month.
But now the Ettorres are worried that they could be socked with an additional $36,000 under a proposed University of Florida plan to charge a $1,000 annual fee that, if successful, the state's 10 other universities could adopt.
The Ettorres are joined by a small but powerful group with mounting concerns about the fee, including Gov.-elect Charlie Crist and the board of Florida's prepaid plan, which asked last week that all of the students enrolled in the program - about 800,000 - be exempt from the $1,000 fee.
"This is kind of a kick in the ribs," said Tony Ettorre, about UF's proposal. "To pass something after the fact is a breach of faith with Florida Prepaid. It's something people never counted on."
The prepaid plan allows people to start saving for college when children are young and guarantees them current tuition rates regardless of what tuition actually costs when the student reaches college.
Because UF's proposal, called the Academic Enhancement Plan, is a fee separate from tuition, it wouldn't be covered by either Florida Prepaid or the merit-based Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
About 2,800 Palm Beach County students currently attend UF, the state's flagship university.
If approved, the fee would be charged to all new and transfer students beginning next fall.
UF President Bernie Machen said the school needs the fee because its cut-rate annual tuition of $3,206 set by the legislature has forced administrators to increase class sizes. UF ranks last nationally in tuition costs when compared with other national flagship universities.
The approximately $36 million that UF would gain from the fee could be used only to hire new faculty.
Machen said he's against exempting prepaid students from paying the fee.
"I don't see why they should be out," Machen said. "Those students will benefit ultimately from it as much as other students."
The fee plan was approved by the Board of Governors, which oversees Florida's universities, last month and is set to go to lawmakers during the 2007 session.
Despite rare support from the Florida Student Association, which traditionally opposes tuition and fee increases, UF's plan could face an uphill battle with lawmakers.
Crist told The Miami Herald this month that he's unlikely to support the fee.
"I want our universities to be the best in the nation without a doubt. I don't know if a fee increase is the best way to get there,'' Crist said. "I think that our students are burdened enough.''
Crist has yet to meet with State University Chancellor Mark Rosenberg, who hopes to warm Crist to the fee and speak with him about the role the Board of Governors has in setting tuition and fees for schools.
"The board is exercising its constitutional responsibility by making this hard decision," Rosenberg said about the $1,000 fee. "I know the governor will be mindful of that."
The prepaid plan's board members said they don't want to impede university advancement, but agreed with Ettorre that imposing a fee on students with prepaid plans is a breech of contract.
Linked to- Bright & Early, Right Wing Nation, Third World County,