For four years straight, each of Florida‘s public universities has raised its tuition as much as state law allows, with the blessing of their state overseers.
The timing couldn’t be much worse for Florida universities to max out on tuition hikes.
More than four years after the Great Recession rocked Florida’s economy, the state’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average. It’s already a struggle for many students and families to afford tuition at today’s rates, much less budget for 15 percent increases every year.
Meanwhile, the typical student debt load in Florida has climbed to more than $21,000. That’s lower than the national average of about $25,000, but high enough to mean many graduates will be hard pressed to find work in Florida’s weak job market that’ll cover the cost of repaying their student loans and allow them to launch independent and productive adult lives.
The popular solution out of Washington to rising college costs is simply to prolong artificially low interest rates on student loans. Keep the easy money coming, even if it enables tuition hikes that push students and families deeper into debt.
The more responsible approach is for universities to put the brakes on tuition hikes.
The University of Florida made a move in that direction recently when its trustees voted to seek a 9 percent increase next year instead of 15 percent. It was quite a turnaround, considering that earlier this year UF President Bernie Machen helped persuade lawmakers to pass legislation letting the university raise tuition as high as it wanted. Fortunately, Gov. Rick Scott, an outspoken opponent of tuition hikes, vetoed the bill.
Florida’s Board of Governors shouldn’t rule out higher tuition altogether. The average tab in Florida, less than $5,700, is cheap compared to the national figure of more than $8,200. And lawmakers have slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for universities in recent years, putting schools under pressure to make up the difference.
But as the chairman of the University of South Florida‘s Board of Trustees, John Ramil, said after the school voted to seek an 11-percent tuition hike next year, “We are giving the state government cover by continuing to raise tuition.” It’s up to lawmakers, he correctly said, to provide enough dollars for universities.
And it’s up to the Board of Governors to make sure the burden of bankrolling the system doesn’t fall too heavily on students and their families.
- BOG budget committee is okay with tuition hikes (tampabay.com)
- FIU will have highest tuition among Fla. schools (miamiherald.com)
- UNF, 9 other universities seek max tuition hike (news4jax.com)
- 11% tuition hike proposed by USF Board (abcactionnews.com)
- Board To Vote Of Florida Universities’ Tuition Increases (miami.cbslocal.com)
- Florida board approves university tuition hike (jacksonville.com)
- UNF students to see 13% tuition hike (news4jax.com)
- Rick Scott, Florida Governor, Cuts College Funding, Vetoes Unlimited Tuition Hike Bill (timesofflorida.com)
- FAU Votes To Raise Tuition 15 Percent (miami.cbslocal.com)