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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Michael Long
member, FBOG
No Real Choice on Tuition Increases

For the past five years, the State of Florida has reduced appropriations to the State University System by roughly 25 percent. The reductions have necessitated a 75 percent increase in tuition in that same five-year period. The University System was cut $300 million in the 2012 legislative session, and the state's higher education budget expects a 15 percent in-state tuition increase in addition to an 8 percent out-of-state tuition increase. 

To an extent, the Board of Governors doesn't really have a choice.

If we don't grant a tuition increase, universities will be forced to make cuts to academic programs, and as students, we will receive a lesser quality education than we did last year. 

If we do raise tuition, we acknowledge that it is okay to charge students more and give them less. We acknowledge that the rising cost of tuition is pricing families out of an education. We acknowledge that by continually cutting state support for education, we are creating a less-qualified workforce and moving backwards.

The argument in support of this pressure on universities is that a financial squeeze will promote cost-saving and force universities to spend only where they need to, leading to more efficiency in the system. 

I disagree with that principal and say that our universities have been cutting their budgets for the past five years, and there is no elasticity remaining. If we continue asking our universities to cut, cut, cut, we will cut the legs from beneath us and jeopardize the successful higher education system we have spent decades building.

Now to answer the specifics of Florida Voices’ question about how tuition relates to business development in the state: There is a clear gap between education and employment, especially in Florida. Thousands of graduates leave our state in search of jobs each year. As taxpayers, we are investing in their education, and we need to create opportunities to retain their knowledge to help improve our economy. More partnerships and  opportunities for communication and collaboration are needed between universities and businesses to determine how best to fill the gap.

In the short run, I believe that with a tuition increase we will see a decline in the university system’s overall enrollment growth as financial aid shrinks. Access to education for citizens in lower socioeconomic strata becomes a major challenge. We have to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive an education, regardless of financial standing. Increasing tuition 75 percent over five years jeopardizes that equal opportunity for education. 

In the long run, I actually foresee a more positive outlook if tuition increases go into effect, but only if state operating appropriations increase or stay at their current level. The increases in tuition will then be utilized to better institutions. Instead of increasing tuition just to plug the hole, schools should use the extra revenue to recruit world-class faculty, build new facilities, offer more high-tech degree programs and increase the overall quality of education for every student. 

Michael Long is the student body president at New College of Florida, chairman of the Florida Student Association and student member of the Florida Board of Governors.

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by Dr. Radut.