TAMPA, Florida -- Governor Rick Scott's own Task Force on Higher Education has made a recommendation he's publicly opposed to improve the quality of education students receive.
The task force released a draft of recommendations this week that includes allowing universities to take local control of tuition pricing and doing away with the state's 15 percent cap on tuition hikes. Some people worry this may out-price the dream for many students of going to college.
"I'll be the first person in my family with a college degree. With the job market today, I don't have an option," said Paige Gordon. She is a USF senior from Sarasota. She said her school loans add up to about $15,000. She worries no caps on tuition hikes means no college education for her younger sister.
"I have concerns for my sister. I want her to have the same opportunities I do," said Paige.
"I'm worried more students will drop out because they can't afford it," said Jameika Small, a third year student at USF. Jameika said she'll owe more than $21,000 by graduation next fall, and that's with a Bright Futures Scholarship.
Since 2007, college tuition in Florida has increased about 15 percent each year. USF tuition prices have jumped from $3,572 to $6,334 this year, while state funding has dropped about 40 percent.
"On a whole, USF is still down 10 percent in funds, even with all the added tuition," said Mark Walsh, assistant vice-president for Government Relations with USF. He said the university supports local control of tuition increases within reason.
Walsh said, "I know our Board of Trustees will do everything in their power to keep tuition as affordable as they can and still give USF the budget to provide students with the best education they can get."
According to the task force, Florida offers one of the most affordable college educations for resident students. Compared to other similar universities, USF's tuition and mandatory fees rate the lowest by about $1,400, compared to the University of North Carolina, and it is half the cost of attending the University of Virginia.
Walsh said research universities such as USF have trouble competing. "Other states have larger budgets, have higher tuition already, which makes it more difficult for us to recruit and retain the best professors around the country," said Walsh.
If USF is allowed to set tuition rates, Walsh said the money will benefit students. "The tuition they pay goes into the classroom."
Walsh said USF did not raise tuition by the full 15 percent this year as allowed by the state. Instead, he said tuition went up 11 percent, and 40 percent of that money went to help students with financial needs.
The state's tuition committee meets again tomorrow, and a final list of recommendation will be given to the governor on October 30th.