PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PolitiFact Florida: Jeb's Tuition Raises 'Mostly True'

Jeb Bush has been getting a lot of attention for his stances on education in his run-up for the GOP nod for president. But his past is also getting a look under the political microscope. WUSF's Steve Newborn talks about Bush's stances on higher education with Amy Hollyfield of PolitiFact Florida.


Former governor and presidential contender Jeb Bush is well known for his stances on education - particularly on the Common Core standards and school vouchers he championed while in office. But his actions on higher education are getting a little closer scrutiny now that he's aiming for the highest office in the land.

Bush recently took a fund-raising trip to Texas. There, Democrats tried to compare him to their former governor and presidential hopeful, Rick Perry. They say during his time in office, Bush "oversaw (an) average in-state tuition increase of 48.2 percent during his tenure."

Now that's a heady statement, saying tuition went up by nearly half during Bush's eight years in office. But there's some other considerations - like does the governor set tuition rates to begin with?

Here's what PolitiFact Florida has to say:

  Higher-cost education

Before we dive into the convoluted tuition-setting process, keep in mind that Florida’s governor does not set tuition rates, the Legislature does. The governor does sign off on the rate in the final budget, and can veto an increase. But the Florida Democratic Party said he "oversaw" the increases, so we need to keep that wording in mind. When Bush took office, the State University System was governed by the Board of Regents, which was designed to protect university interests and often fought with legislators over how money was spent at schools. One of those battles led Bush to work with then-Speaker of the House John Thrasher and the Legislature to dissolve the Board of Regents in 2000. The Regents’ duties were turned over to the state Board of Education and a governor-appointed Board of Trustees at each university. But that system soon added the current Board of Governors, created when U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (also a former governor)  masterminded a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2002. Now let’s get down to the numbers. Florida Democratic Party officials didn’t elaborate on their claim for us, but they did include a link in their press release to back up their point. A chart from the Florida College Access Network, a student advocacy group, showed average in-state, undergraduate tuition and fees for students taking 30 credit hours at State University System schools over a number of years. Doing the math from that source, we found that the percent change of the systemwide average from the 1999-2000 fiscal year (Bush’s first year in office) through 2006-07 (when he left) really was 48.2 percent. This is the number the Florida Democratic Party is likely using. Our ruling The Florida Democratic Party said Bush "oversaw average in-state tuition increase of 48.2 percent during his tenure." While not having the power to increase tuition himself, Bush did sign budgets in which the Legislature increased tuition substantially. We came up with 56.9 percent ourselves, counting the strict cost of tuition per hour over the eight years Bush was governor. That hike doesn’t beat estimates of the nationwide average at the time, however, and in-state, undergraduate tuition was still quite a deal compared to other states when Bush left office. The statement is accurate, but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Now, let's go to the other side of the Atlantic, where the economic crisis in Greece is threatening to tear apart the European Union's monetary system. Noble Prize-winnning economist Paul Krugman tried to put this in perspective, where Jeb Bush's adopted home town of Miami comes in.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

The latest estimate of the Gross Domestic Product of the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, according to Washington’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, was $281 billion in 2013. The same year, the CIA estimated the size of the Greek economy at $282.6 billion in 2013. Another estimate, from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, put Greece’s GDP at about $283 billion. Our ruling Krugman said that the economy of Greece is about a big as that of the Miami metropolitan area. Based on a common measure of Gross Domestic Product, that is accurate. The GDP of Greece was about $282 billion in 2013, and the Miami metro area had a GDP of $281 billion.

We rate the claim True.


Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.