Not enough of Florida’s college students are graduating in four years, Gov. Rick Scott says, but fear not — Scott says he’s got a plan to fix the problem.
On Tuesday, the governor announced new legislative and budget proposals to push colleges and universities to make higher education more affordable and lighten the load on students strapped by the rising cost of getting a degree.
If passed, the “Finish in Four, Save More” plan would have a sweeping impact on Florida’s college students.
Scott’s proposal would freeze fees at their current rate. Students are often whacked with fees for taking classes, ranging from $26 per credit hour at colleges up to $100 at universities.
While universities wouldn’t be allowed to increase their fees, they would still be able to decrease these amounts.
College tuition rates would also remain stagnant under Scott’s proposal.
Scott has vowed to expand Bright Futures, the state program which provides Florida students with financial assistance based on their academic achievements.
Bright Futures has been a popular program since it debuted in 1997, but its path hasn’t always been clear of roadblocks. The 2008 recession slashed the program and offered significantly fewer scholarships.
Textbook fees would also be slashed under the new proposal.
Encouraging students to learn and get degrees all while lightening their pocketbooks should be a top priority for lawmakers, Scott said.
“Florida students should have every opportunity to earn a degree in four years without graduating with mountains of debt,” the governor said in a statement. “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.”
Scott has an ally in Senate President Joe Negron on higher education issues. Last year, Negron unveiled an ambitious plan to funnel more than $1 billion into Florida’s 12 public universities. Negron also supports expanding Bright Futures, especially for top-tier students.
It’s uncertain just how much of the two proposals will overlap during this year’s legislative session.
Only 44 percent of undergraduate students at Florida state universities actually finish their degrees in four years. A higher number — 71 percent — finish their degrees in four to six years.
Scott has spent the last few years pushing higher education issues, advocating holding the line on graduate tuition rates, promoting STEM degrees and advocating for college textbook affordability.
The total cost of Scott’s proposal was not released.