HIGHER EDUCATION

Gov. Rick Scott pushes “Finish in Four” tuition plan to save college students money

 

College students who complete their degree in four years would pay the same tuition in each of the four years under Gov. Rick Scott’s plan.

The News Service of Florida

Gov. Rick Scott’s push to keep tuition low includes a new twist submitted with his budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The governor’s idea: tuition should be the same when students graduate as when they start.

Scott has offered legislation that would hold tuition steady for four years for students entering a state university this fall or afterward. The governor did not highlight the bill during his press conference unveiling his proposed budget, but the proposal is in the package he’s sending to the Legislature.

And it sticks closely to something that Scott has pounded on now for months: his belief that an era of nearly annual tuition increases need to end.

“When I talk to universities, they know that we’ve got to hold the line on tuition, we’ve got to watch how we’re spending the money,” he said Thursday.

A summary packet about the budget handed out by the governor’s office makes the case for “Finish in Four,” which alludes to the hopes that the tuition guarantee will encourage students to finish their degree in four years to take advantage of the tuition freeze. Universities could also designate some degrees that they believe take longer than four years for a lengthier guarantee.

“The unpredictability of tuition increases makes it difficult for students and families to plan for the cost of higher education,” the packet reads.

Scott has also pushed state colleges to lower the cost of four-year degrees with a “challenge” to offer at least one degree at $10,000. Every college offering four-year degrees has agreed to be a part of that challenge, but not all have come up with how they will do it.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said Friday that he wasn’t ready to take a position on the proposal. But when asked what an objection to the plan might be, he pointed to “unique challenges that students face that may make it impractical in certain circumstances” to finish in four years.

For example, jobs or other responsibilities could lengthen some students’ time at school — which would make them ineligible for the guarantee after four years.

Georgia recently experimented with a “Fixed for Four” program beginning in 2006, but abandoned it beginning with the 2009 freshman class, blaming it on budget cuts.

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