ST. PETERSBURG, Florida- "No cuts! No cuts! Tuition hikes are killing us!" In the chilly afternoon rain about a dozen USF students protest outside the USF St. Petersburg campus.
"No hikes! No cuts! No hikes! No cuts!" chants USF graduate Tyler Crawford. He is one of many students opposed to the state leaders' decision to raise tuition 15 percent each year since 2007 until the in-state tuition meets the national average. This year, it is $8,244. Florida reportedly ranks 45th out of 50 states. The average tuition is $5,626.
"Got my full four years in college and each year tuition went up 15 percent. I got less funding through Bright Futures," says Tyler. He says he plans to attend graduate school, but already has nearly $30,000 in college loans.
And each tuition increase is not entirely covered by the state's Bright Future's Scholarship program. Each year, Bright Futures is worth less and less.
Holding a sign that says, "The Future is 30% Bright," Tyler says by the time Florida's tuition reaches the national average, Bright Futures won't cover much.
"Bright Futures cover only 30 percent of your education as opposed to 75 percent and 100 percent previously. Bright Futures is not looking so bright for students right now," says Tyler. "People that have Bright Futures are hard working students. They deserve to get what they put in."
USF's tuition jumped about $600 this year from last year and some students say it's enough to price them out of some classes. "I've had to take less classes. I don't have a way to pay for classes out of pocket," says USF senior Chardonnay Singleton.
While tuition goes up, state funding to USF and other colleges has dropped. USF has reportedly received $66 million less since 2007.
Chardonnay says, "Decreasing the amount of money you get for funding and increase amount of money you pay for tuition. Something is wrong there. It's not balanced at all. It's going to cause the loan bubble to burst when we leave school."
These activists hope, if anything, students get motivated and get involved. Tyler says, "You need to get active on the issues because nobody is going to represent you unless you make the effort to represent yourself. We want to get students activated because we feel if students come out on this issue we can change it."
The students are part of Fight Back Florida, a grassroots movement of students that organized in March. They plan more protests like the one at USF St. Petersburg. Students at about half a dozen college universities held a similar rally today.