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Florida’s Betrayal of College Students: Sticking It to the Young, Pandering to the Old

| June 24, 2011

A wrong-footed slouch back to the old days.

In the mid-1990s Florida realized it had half a good asset in its public colleges and universities. But the state also had a dismal high school graduation rates in the country (and still does) and a low college attendance rate even though those universities were among the least expensive in the nation. Lawmakers created the Bright Futures scholarship program. It covered full tuition to students with GPAs of 3.5 or better, and covered 75 percent of tuition for students with GPAs between 3 and 3.5. It did so no matter how much tuition increased year after year (as it has). It included a generous book stipend. And it became hugely popular. Some 180,000 students applied for it last year, up from 42,000 in its first year.

The program cost peaked at $429 million in 2008. Taxpayers didn’t foot the bill. Gamblers did, through the state lottery, which generated $4.12 billion in sales, did. The program’s funding source is not in danger and is not about to be. But its revenue transfers to education are. They diminish every year.

The Legislature is breaking its promise to Florida college students twice over. In 2008 lawmakers decided to end the Bright Futures pledge. The scholarship would no longer cover full tuition, and the amount set aside for it would be capped at $350 million. Academic eligibility would be toughened by increasing the minimum SAT score allowable. As has so often happened with lottery money, what was once promised for education has been diverted to other ends, namely plugging budget gaps resulting from a decade’s epidemic of tax cuts.

If Florida still had inexpensive colleges and universities, the broken pledge on Bright Futures may not have been such a raw deal. But for the past ten years or so, the Legislature has also given up investing in its university system, shifting the burden instead to students. It’s like the fully-abled middle aged parent who turns to his 18-year-old daughter fresh out of high school and says: now you pay the two mortgages on my $250,000 house. Yesterday, the governing board for the State University System approved a 7 percent increase in tuition. That’s on top of an 8 percent increase the Legislature approved a few weeks ago. Rick Scott didn’t veto that one. Tuition has been increasing at Florida’s universities by 15 percent a year for three successive years. It has risen by close to 140 percent in the past 10 years.


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Between those tuition increases and the end of Bright Futures’ promise, college is being priced out of reach of tens of thousands of students, including many of the 750 or so Flagler County students currently enrolled and paying their way with Bright Futures. Take a student attending the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 2002, that student’s full tuition would have been around $2,500. That full amount would have been covered by Bright Futures. Next fall, tuition will be $5,700. Barely half of that will be covered by Bright Futures. In other words even students with a full Bright Futures scholarship will have to pay more tuition next fall than what would have been the entire cost of tuition nine years ago. Keep in mind: tuition is only a fraction of a year’s cost in college. UF calculates that the annual cost of attendance this fall will be $19,820, including $9,000 for room and board.


Legislators and the State University System promise continued 15 percent increases a year indefinitely. Their mad goal is actually to match the national average of public university tuition, currently $7,600 a year. That average is also increasing at about three or four times the rate of inflation year after year. It’s a senseless race—not to any sort of summit, but to a two-tiered system where only the rich will be able to afford a good quality university education, no matter how good the grades, and the rest will have to make do with lesser choices. No economy, no state, thrives with a poorly educated workforce. No democracy survives inequalities that steep before disenfranchisement makes it a democracy in pretentions only.

Florida had a choice to put its money where its future is. It is choosing instead to focus on the most short-sighted bottom line, driven by that mania for low taxes in a state where taxes are already among the lowest in the nation—a mania driven in no small part by elderly voters, tea party types particularly, whose social selfishness is second only to their hypocrisy: that’s the GI Bill generation that benefited from the most generous college aid program in the nation’s history, and the same generation that now benefits from Medicare, the most generous health insurance program around.

“It is time to focus on nation building here at home,” President Obama said this week in his belated realization of the waste that the last 10 years’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been. We could use a little state-building in Florida. Instead, we have a legislature and a governor embracing a rush for third world status that might as well make us, before long, the Afghanistan of America, though Afghans might be offended by the comparison.

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16 Responses for “Florida’s Betrayal of College Students: Sticking It to the Young, Pandering to the Old”

  1. mara says:

    Take away as many incentives for higher education, as many opportunities for higher education, from all the people–and before long, only the wealthy will be able to get a higher education.

    More class warfare and dumbing down of the population, courtesy of those who cater solely to The Wealthy.

    Only the wealthy are deserving.

    Only the wealthy are deserving

    Only the wealthy are deserving.

    Only the wealthy are deserving.

    Only the wealthy are deserving.

    Are you getting it yet? That is what current lawmakers would have you accept.

  2. What would Mother Theresa says:

    “Florida had a choice to put its money where its future is. It is choosing instead to focus on the most short-sighted bottom line, driven by that mania for low taxes in a state where taxes are already among the lowest in the nation—a mania driven in no small part by elderly voters, tea party types particularly, whose social selfishness is second only to their hypocrisy: that’s the GI Bill generation that benefited from the most generous college aid program in the nation’s history, and the same generation that now benefits from Medicare, the most generous health insurance program around.”

    Added to that they expect their children to take on the burden and expense of taking care of them while at the same time struggling to survive and take care of their own family in the mess they created, while they continue to cheat life to the very last, even when it means having to pop 5+ pills a day, prescription/non prescription, every day to live on just a while longer. And they call us stupid and selfish. Stupid yes – the result of the crummy education you provided for us! Also add responsible, tired, anxious, and depressed. Why else would we let you do this to us. Sorry I’m not feeling the love right now – the depression meds is blocking the feeling.

    I should mention that Mother Theresa knowingly accepted blood money from questionable people to feed and take care of starving children. A true Saint in my book.

  3. Merrill says:

    Yet, while breaking their promises, our legislators passed CS/HJR 1471 that will bring to our ballots in November 2012 a provision to allow the government to fund religious educations, sending students, on our dime, to study the ministry!

    CS/HJR 1471 passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and “Proposes amendment to section. 3, Art. I of State Constitution to provide that, consistent with U.S. Constitution, no individual or entity may be denied, on basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, & to delete prohibition against using revenues from public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

  4. Fuck…
    yep, all i got at the moment.

  5. Tom Brown says:

    Hey, here’s an idea — let’s start charging high school kids tuition. Actually, that’s not a joke. GED tuition at Daytona State just went up significantly. Some people in my church just chipped in so one of our members wouldn’t have to drop out.

  6. Outsider says:

    Nowhere in the article does it state what the universities themselves are doing to deal with the economic realities of today. Are professors taking on more classes to help cut costs? Are they eliminating underutilized programs? Have they considered focusing more on meaningful classes (computers, engineering, math, etc) instead of social engineering, left wing indoctrination studies such as “gender” studies and “ethnic” studies? Do they continue to rape students every semester by requiring them to purchase brand “new” textbooks to the tune of $1,000 per semester? Does math change so much on a monthly basis that it’s necessary to create new textbooks every six months, or is it simply a way to keep sucking money out of the students, who in turn must mortgage more of their futures? Some states give “in-state” tuition to illegal aliens, yet force U.S. citizens to pay out-of-state tuition. Could this be part of the problem of rising education costs? While everyone complains about “big oil” and “big pharma” gouging American consumers, noone ever questions “big education” which continues to suck up more tax dollars and more family savings than big oil could ever hope to. I’m not dismissing the value of a good education; I’m only questioning whether the institutions are most concerned with delivering a good education, or simply enriching themselves through the taxpayers and students. There’s a lot of “fluff” that could be eliminated, and it’s time even institutions of higher learning learn that times are lean, and they should face reality just like the rest of us.

  7. PCer says:

    Outsider, you are severely misinformed. University professors are NOT striking it rich. They are taking cuts and are not being given the grants for research for much needed project. You mention “left wing indoctrination” are you kidding??? Sure, there are some liberal professors, but there are also a whole bunch of conservatives. It works both ways. I wonder, how old are you? Are you one of the tea baggers that wants to cut every tax and have each individual put in a few dollars to build out infrastructure? Without the university system in Florida, we will just go a little futher down the tube.

    Why doesn’t the legislature give back the lottery money to the universities? Can somebody sue them for taking it away in the first place? Just wondering????

  8. Lin says:

    Same old, same old — it’s the tea party’s fault, old people’s fault. I don’t want to see any tuition increases or programs cut but the blame game is getting tiresome.

    This is what is coming soon here in Flagler — teachers are going to be getting raises BUT kids are having class times cut. How are the old people to blame for that decision of our school board?

  9. becky says:

    I am the mother of 4. I don’t expect thetaxpayers to pay for my children’s tuition. Sure it would be great. But they will have to work their way through like I did in the
    Carter years. It would be great if ALL expenses for education were deductible. Govco has no right to tax peoples cost for education.

  10. UF Student says:

    Outsider, did you see the NYTimes piece that detailed UF’s transition to online courses because they are cheaper? In 4 years, 25% of the classes there will be online, and I would bet that other state schools are moving in that direction as well. What kind of education can you get when your professor is teaching 1000 other students or more in the same class (this is no exaggeration, this was the enrollment of my online statistics course)? Staff are being laid off left and right, there are some departments that will CEASE TO EXIST by the time I graduate in 3 years. And it’s the textbook companies (BIG CORPORATIONS), not the universities, that are price gouging. Most students don’t even buy textbooks from the university’s store as other stores can be more convenient; it wouldn’t make sense for the school to raise prices or else they wouldn’t be in competition with the third-party sellers. ALL of my profs have gone out of their way to make their courses as affordable as possible to the average student. I’ve even been to a few of their homes for end-of-semester celebrations, and believe me, they are no where near any type of excessive affluence. And, outsider, if you had read the article in its entirety you would see that bright futures is funded by gambling, not by taxes that you pay, so I don’t see why you are entitled to say that it shouldn’t go towards my education, where it was promised to go.

  11. mara says:

    No. Just….no:

    “teachers are going to be getting raises”

    Many, *many* teachers I know haven’t had a raise in years. Meanwhile, administrators salaries head ever-upward. The problem here is not the teachers–or the students–or the parents. The problem is the bureaucracy. That is neither Right nor is it Left, it is designed for one thing and one thing only–to turn a profit.

    Our education system has been sold out and dumbed down–to anyone much over 40, this has to be obvious by now. I got a better education in grade school than I get now in state college online classes. In one recent class, i never cracked the book to any measurable degree, other than to take an open-book test. Of course I got an A.

    Show me one teacher who is getting seriously rich off this. You can’t.

  12. Lin says:

    No, it is not the time for administrator salaries to go up either — and some are too high to begin with. The issue isn’t that teachers are getting rich, it is that the money to pay the raises has to come from someone — there is no “government” to pay salaries — it is taxpayers. And raises are something that the private sector is missing out on — ask the thousands of unemployed, & underemployed. And ask the unemployed teachers too. Ask the seniors that are waiting for a cost of living increase for 2 years. We need to hold off on raises until we can afford to pay raises.

    It is our School Board making decisions now to lay off some teachers and cut the school day yet give raises to other teachers. I question that decision. It all boils down to what is best for our kids. I have seen lots of raises granted by School Boards in the state where I came from and it did nothing to improve the education of our kids, quite the contrary — it made life much more stressful for the parents who had to pay the tax bills. It made teachers jobs more difficult because they did not get as much support from the parents at home who needed to work more.

    Who is making money off the schools except the people that work there — I don’t understand that comment?

  13. Outsider says:

    To Pc’er and UF Student: I am not “misinformed,” I am uninformed, therefore I posed some questions, to which I have received some answers for which I thank you very much. Call me old-fashioned, but I CHOSE not to go to a big university, but instead went to a community and then a state college in Georgia. I worked in a family business painting houses and maintaining properties and I was able to leave school with only $1500 in debt. I work in the same environment as others who went to better known institutions and left school with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The point is, there are other less expensive options, and you may get more one-on-one with the professors. UF Student, someone at the university CHOSE the book supplier (big corporation, as you refer to it) for SOME reason. You see, in the real world that buyer would NEGOTIATE

  14. mara says:

    If you don’t understand “the making of money” in education, you might want to do a search on Jeb Bush and “standardized testing” some time.

    Meantime, what I want to know is, why is THE STATE reneging on its promise to put money–money that taxpayers *never paid into* unless they chose to buy lottery tickets–toward college tuition? Let’s not cloud the issue here–where did all that money go?

  15. mara says:

    UF Student, I fully agree with you–I have taken online courses at a state college here in FL and in one of my classes last semester, I barely cracked the book and I received an A for that class….

    (if FlaglerLive is having a problem with this claim, I would like to cordially invite you to email me for further details).

    What kind of education can we possibly be getting? To read the comments here, I guess some people are okay with the dumbing-down of students and education–where thousands of dollars worth of higher-ed tuition loans will be racked up, only to go toward the purchase of a degree. That’s what it’s going to boil down to.

    What gets me the angriest about this article comments are those who are upset at “tax dollars” supporting education, when this article made it crystal-clear that we weren’t talking about tax dollars until the state reneged on its promise to the college system::

    “”Lawmakers created the Bright Futures scholarship program. It covered full tuition to students with GPAs of 3.5 or better, and covered 75 percent of tuition for students with GPAs between 3 and 3.5. It did so no matter how much tuition increased year after year (as it has). It included a generous book stipend. And it became hugely popular. Some 180,000 students applied for it last year, up from 42,000 in its first year.

    The program cost peaked at $429 million in 2008. Taxpayers didn’t foot the bill. Gamblers did, through the state lottery, which generated $4.12 billion in sales, did. The program’s funding source is not in danger and is not about to be. But its revenue transfers to education are. They diminish every year.The Legislature is breaking its promise to Florida college students twice over. In 2008 lawmakers decided to end the Bright Futures pledge. The scholarship would no longer cover full tuition, and the amount set aside for it would be capped at $350 million. Academic eligibility would be toughened by increasing the minimum SAT score allowable. As has so often happened with lottery money, what was once promised for education has been diverted””

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