Gov. Rick Scott wants to freeze tuition and fees to make high education more affordable for students, and assure that more students graduate in four years. And he calls for expanding Bright Futures in his budget.
His “Finish in Four, Save More” legislative and budget proposals were released on Tuesday.
Only 44 percent of undergraduate students at Florida state universities graduate within four years, according to a release, and 71 percent of students are graduating with four-year degrees within six years.
The legislation includes:
-- Freezing Fees: State college and university fees will be frozen at the current rates. Fees at universities average almost $100 per credit hour and colleges average more than $26 per credit hour. Colleges and universities will still be able to decrease fees.
-- Freezing State College Tuition: State college tuition will be frozen at the current rates. In 2014, Scott signed legislation limiting state universities’ ability to establish or raise a tuition differential. His goal is to continue that with state colleges this year.
-- Cutting graduate teaching assistant fees by 25%: This allows hardworking teaching assistants to receive a more affordable education.
And these items will be included in Scott's recommended budget:
-- Expanding Bright Futures: Expanding Bright Futures to cover summer classes will give students more flexibility to graduate in four years. Currently Bright Futures only covers fall and spring semesters.
-- Cutting taxes on college textbooks: This initiative and accompanying legislation will provide a sales tax exemption for students purchasing required textbooks and instructional materials and will save students $48 million next year. A student taking five courses per semester will save a minimum of $60 per year.
Scott said: “Florida students should have every opportunity to earn a degree in four years without graduating with mountains of debt. While we have fought to make higher education more affordable by holding the line on undergraduate tuition, there is much more that can be done to help students. I am calling on the state Legislature to freeze all fees at state colleges and universities, and to also freeze state college tuition so students aren’t burdened with the constant sky-rocketing costs. I am also calling on the Legislature to expand Bright Futures into the summer term, helping students graduate in four years. In business, you are expected to create more efficiencies or more value. Our institutions need to provide more value to our students by becoming more affordable and helping students graduate in four years so they can save money and get a great job. I want to thank the trustees and presidents of Florida’s colleges and universities for helping us make higher education affordable, but we must do more.”