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Lawmakers Want To Waive Out Of State Tuition For Colleges Impacted By Hurricane Michael

Nick Morrison

Lawmakers hope allowing state colleges impacted by Hurricane Michael to waive out of state tuition for 3 years will spur economic growth. 

The bill will allow institutions whose enrollment dropped by 10% or more after Hurricane Michael to waive out of state fees for students.

Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) is sponsoring the bill. He says this gives the Panhandle an opportunity to increase the recruitment of students and assist the local economy.

“When it comes down to those in the panhandle who have been significantly impacted by hurricane Michael, the economic impact of it and giving folks the opportunity to come in and enroll at these particular institutions. To sustain the enrollment and create viability on the campuses,” said Alexander. 

Rep. Wengay Newton (D-St. Petersburg) says the devastation from the hurricane is unimaginable.

“I don’t even know how or if when they’ll be able to recover from that. So, whatever we can do, whatever little bit or large bit, whatever we can do to assist in them getting back in some state of normalcy is needed,” said Wengay. 

Gulf Coast State College had a 16% enrollment decline this spring.

And the Chipola College associate degree program enrollment decreased by about 30%.

The college offers a Differential Tuition Plan, allowing students in certain states to pay in-state tuition.

Alexander says that tuition plan will not interfere with the proposed bill.

“The uniqueness about the state of Florida is that we have a broad spectrum of campuses and communities and demographics and I think its incumbent behind those local communities and those local boards to make decisions in the best interest of their campuses and their colleges,” said Alexander.

The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved the bill unanimously; it has one more stop in the House but has not been heard in the Senate.

Gabrielle Bolden is a fourth year broadcast journalism major attending Florida A&M University from Jacksonville, FL. Bolden is an aspiring multimedia producer. She previously served as a producer for News 20 at Five airing to at least 80,000 households, creating engaging content weekly. She pitched and wrote articles as a staff reporter for The FAMUAN Newspaper. She also produced the 2018 Election Night Special for News 20 at Five, covering state and local election races. Bolden interned for WCTV-Eyewitness News (CBS) producing a multimedia project covering the devastating wildfires in Eastpoint, Florida.