Florida lawmakers contend that education is essential to high-wage jobs in the state, but the Legislature is again expected to slash millions of dollars from the budget for higher education and may usher in another round of tuition increases.
A proposal in the House would reduce state financing by nearly $250 million next year and would allow universities to increase tuition by as little as 8 percent and as much as 15 percent. A measure in the Senate would cut more than $500 million and would allow smaller institutions that are defined as colleges to raise tuition by 3 percent (the full-scale universities would not be permitted to raise tuition).
The cuts in Florida began four years ago and have continued unabated. Since 2008, state spending on education has dropped by 24 percent and is now at 2003 levels. Meanwhile, universities have raised tuition every year, putting many students in a financial bind. Florida’s 11 public universities have been raising tuition 15 percent a year for the past four years, and some of them for five years, although they still rank among the least expensive in the nation.
Forty-one states cut higher education spending last year, from 1 percent in Indiana and North Carolina to 41 percent in New Hampshire, according to a recent study conducted by the Illinois State University Center for the Study of Higher Education and the State Higher Education Executive Officers group.