Florida's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the state Constitution gives legislators ultimate authority to set tuition, presumably ending a six-year legal fight over whether that authority lay instead with the state's higher education governing board.
The former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, along with other politicians and some university leaders in the state, had argued that a 2002 constitutional amendment creating a statewide Board of Governors transferred tuition-setting power to the new body. (They believed the state's major public universities were underpriced on national terms and viewed legislators as unwilling to raise tuition.) A judge embraced their legal arguments early in 2011, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling later that year.
In its decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court backed the appeals court's ruling. "Nothing within the language of [the Constitutional amendment] indicates an intent to transfer this quintessentially legislative power to the Board of Governors," the high court's ruling said. "Accordingly, we conclude that the challenged statutes by which the Legislature has exercised control over these funds are facially constitutional."
The legal battling may be over, but the fight over tuition-setting continues. Legislators have proposed (and continue to propose) bills that would allow the University of Florida and Florida State University to raise tuition significantly, while Governor Rick Scott has not only rebuffed those but argued for lowering tuition rates.