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Gov. Scott: We will fight to make higher education more affordable

TAMPA, Fla. – On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott announced his “Finish in Four, Save More” legislative and budget proposals to encourage colleges and universities to continue to make higher education more affordable for students and also help students graduate in four years. Currently, only 44 percent of undergraduate students at Florida state universities graduate within four years and 71 percent of students are graduating with four year degrees within six years.

Governor 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.”

The “Finish in Four, Save More” legislative and budget initiatives continue Governor Scott’s goal of making college more affordable. The following will be included in legislation:

  • Freezing Fees: State college and university fees will be frozen at the current rates. Currently 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, Governor 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; and
  • Cutting graduate teaching assistant fees by 25%: This allows hardworking teaching assistants to receive a more affordable education.

The following will be included in the Governor’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; and
  • 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.

Governor Scott has held the line on undergraduate tuition for three consecutive years.

Last year, Governor Scott championed and signed a sweeping college affordability bill that the Legislature passed and includes the following provisions:

  • Provided greater transparency for students regarding college costs;
  • Held the line on graduate school tuition;
  • Informed students of required and recommended textbooks before the start of classes;
  • Required colleges and universities to adopt policies that make textbooks more affordable; and
  • Required the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to make annual recommendations on how to make college more affordable.

In May, Governor Scott hosted the Degrees to Jobs Summit, which focused on important higher education topics including college affordability, leadership accountability and how business leaders and education officials can better connect Florida students with meaningful jobs when they graduate.