Prior to 3/5/2008 the newsclips are available in a PDF archive.
News Clips 12/10/2012
EDITORIAL: Stop cuts to university funding, freeze tuition
Source: Orlando Sentinel, 12/8/12
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After relentlessly raising tuition by double digits for the past four or five years, Florida's public universities have offered state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott a deal. The universities will hold the line on tuition next year in return for another $118 million in state funding.
It's too good a deal to pass up.
As universities were hiking tuition, lawmakers were slashing their state funding almost 40 percent. Dollars doled out by the Legislature used to finance three-quarters of a student's university education in Florida. Now they cover less than half the tab at most schools.
Tuition at Florida's public universities is still among the lowest in the country, but it has been climbing up to 15 percent annually in recent years, putting a strain on students and families who didn't budget for the increase. It's not surprising that the average debt load for students in Florida is growing.
And still, earlier this year, lawmakers doubled down on docking higher education. They cut $300 million in funding for universities, counseling them to soften the blow by raiding their reserves. What sage advice. That has left universities with fewer dollars to improve their programs and facilities or recover from emergencies.
Lawmakers promised to restore the $300 million next year. Now the universities are asking them for an extra $118 million — as much as they'd raise if they upped tuition next year by the legal limit of 15 percent. To their credit, the universities also are pledging to meet performance goals, like boosting graduation rates.
Scott, who opposes tuition hikes, hailed the idea of a freeze. However, he didn't endorse the other half of the deal — more state funding.
Granted, throwing more money at institutions doesn't always make them better. And most large institutions could stand to identify and eliminate unnecessary expenses periodically. But Florida's public universities have been going through this exercise now for five years running.
Without the extra funds they're seeking, the universities will have to keep on cutting. Already they've had to eliminate or freeze jobs and close or merge programs. That's no way to achieve the "national preeminence and academic and research excellence" that Scott has set as their goal.
Unless the goal is really just a catchphrase.
Florida's university system remains an underachiever compared to its counterparts in other states. None of the Sunshine State's public institutions cracked the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report's latest rankings of the nation's best universities.
Yet Florida needs first-class universities to upgrade its economy. Together with quality public schools — and we'll have more to say on them tomorrow — high-achieving universities are critical to educating and training a work force that will attract investment and create high-wage jobs.
For years Florida universities have made students ante up. Now it's time to give students a breather, and let lawmakers do their part.