Increasing cost of college risky
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 15:02
The Florida Legislature is answering the call to address problems with the state's higher-education system, but is it doing a proper job? Fresh criticism aimed at Tallahassee is mounting over the prospect of further cuts in funding combined with increased tuition at certain public universities.
Last week, lawmakers in the Senate passed a budget that included a $400 million cut in funding to Florida's 11 public universities. "To fill in the budget gap, senators want universities to dip into reserves, raise tuition 3 percent and reduce spending," according to WCTV.
The House voted to remove a significantly smaller amount, $138 million in funds, with a plan that would require an 8 percent raise in tuition rates. Both chambers are working toward a compromise on the final dollar amount, and regardless of the final figure, it looks like the cost of attending a Florida university is going to be even less affordable.
A recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel rightly pointed out that a more expensive education is going to run down the value of one of Florida's most valuable assets – the public education system adds nearly $80 billion a year to the state economy, according to a study cited in the op-ed.
Lawmakers in the Senate also voted to further attenuate funding for higher education with a plan to create a 12th public university out of the University of South Florida Polytechnic campus in Lakeland. This means another slice out of an already limited and shrinking pie of education funding.
The move comes largely thanks to the tough-talking Sen. JD Alexander, who desired to bypass rules set by the Florida Board of Governors that would force the school to meet a series of benchmarks over a set number of years before gaining approval as a university. "This despite the fact that Florida voters amended the state constitution in 2002 to give the board, not the Legislature, responsibility for managing the university system," according to the Sentinel.
Another piece of legislation working its way through the state legislature would bring an unprecedented change to the way a few schools set their tuition rates. The bill would give top-tier research universities the flexibility to charge tuition rates higher than Florida's other universities. The idea is that research universities should be able to charge more for an education with more inherent value.
Under the guidelines in the proposal, only the University of Florida and Florida State University would qualify with 11 of the 14 benchmarks met. USF is close with seven of the benchmarks, but the UCF is far behind, meeting only three of the requirements.
Each of these bills would require approval from Gov. Rick Scott, who has already said he wants to keep tuition costs low. Regardless of what happens in Tallahassee, it is apparent that lawmakers have one thing on their minds, and that's saving money amid a budget shortfall, risking the affordability of Florida's schools.