Students rally to fight fifth straight year of big tuition hikesby John Kennedy | January 26th, 2012
With the House already including a potential 15 percent tuition increase in its budget, 300 Florida students rallied at the Capitol Thurday to oppose shelling out more even as lawmakers reduce the state’s share of higher education spending.
Michael Long, chairman of the Florida Student Association, told the crowd that tuition has climbed 60 percent over the past four years, while the state has reduced general revenue support for schools by 24 percent.
“We do not mind contributing to our education as long as its reasonable,” Long said. “But 60 percent in four years is not reasonable.”
In his role as FSA chairman, Long also sits as a member of the State University System’s Board of Governors. Along with opposing the tuition boost, students are opposing separate legislation that would give the governor authority to appoint the BOG’s student representative.
For his part, Gov. Rick Scott didn’t include a tuition increase in the $66.4 billion budget proposal he unveiled last month. He also has questioned the spending priorities of the state’s 11 public universities — nudging them to promote for science and technology programs that employers are said to want.
The Senate so far hasn’t begun serious budget work. But Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was among those speaking to the student group Thursday. He pointed out that even with the steady increases, Florida has the fifth lowest average tuition in the country among state systems.
Haridopolos, though, told the crowd that one of the reasons the Senate was moving slowly on the budget was so that it could hear more from those — like the students — affected by the Legislature’s budget building in a year when lawmakers are trying to close a $2 billion shortfall.
Alexander Press, a 22-year-old Florida Atlantic University senior, was among those at the rally.
“It’s a lot of money,” Press said of the tuition hikes. “We’re just starting to make a recovery from this recession, and it’s not easy for families to have to keep paying more.”