The skies were still black at 5 a.m. but the students came anyway, nibbling muffins and hauling backpacks onto a bus at the University of South Florida. They snapped pictures of Rocky the Bull's mascot head stored in the luggage compartment, and settled in for the four-hour road trip.
About 75 in all, they were bound for the State Capitol on Tuesday, both to celebrate their school for USF Day in Tallahassee and talk to any legislators who would listen to their message:
Hold down tuition. Increase funding.
"I'm almost broke," said Chakara Wimberly, 23, who has paid for her studies in public health with a combination of scholarships, grants and loans. "This is my last semester. I work three jobs. I'm up to 40 hours a week. I live below my means. It's not like I'm living in a luxury apartment. … I think I'm worthy of a degree."