Rick Scott chided the Obama administration Thursday for being late to a drive the Republican governor has tried to lead in Florida — lowering the cost of university tuition.
Speaking at the University of Buffalo, President Obama announced plans Thursday for a federal rating system that would allow parents to compare the cost and quality of colleges. The proposal, which likely faces a tough road through Congress, also would tie the distribution of $150 billion in federal aid to students to this rating system.
“The president is certainly late to the party on making higher education more affordable, but we are glad he’s here,” Scott said.
Scott has condemned rising university tuition in Florida but only this year managed to put the brakes on what had been almost 20 straight years of tuition increases. A 1.7 percent automatic, cost-of-living increase was the only hike allowed at most schools this year — after double-digit hikes dominated last year.
Last year, however, the hefty tuition hikes were largely forced by a $300 million cut universities were forced to shoulder in a budget signed by Scott.
The governor also said the White House could learn from other steps Florida has taken, including the introduction of a handful of $10,000 degree programs at the state’s two-dozen colleges.
“We are focused on improving the value of higher education for students and parents by fighting tuition hikes and rewarding schools that graduate students who get jobs,” Scott said. “Just this year, we passed a budget that included $20 million in performance funding for universities tied to graduates who find jobs, the salary of those jobs, and the cost of their degree.
“Florida is taking the lead in making higher education more affordable and the nation is starting to follow,” he concluded.
Congressional reaction to Obama’s plan broke along party lines, with many Republicans skeptical of the rating system. Among the harsher critics: Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who clearly didn’t view the plan the same as his state’s governor.
“I’m strongly opposed to his plan to impose new federal standards on higher education institutions,” Rubio said. “This is a slippery slope, and one that ends with the private sector inevitably giving up more of its freedom to innovate and take risks.
“The U.S. did not create the best higher education system in the world by using standards set by Washington bureaucrats,” Rubio said.