Daytona Beach News Journal’s Editorial Board
With a $2 billion budget shortfall looming over the next session of the Florida Legislature, lawmakers are floating a number of possible targets for cuts.
On Thursday, college students in the Sunshine State were put on notice they may have to pay more for school as the Legislature grapples with the revenue shortfall. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told the Tampa Tribune that the primary targets will be health and human services and higher education.
This is unfortunate news. College tuition at Florida’s 11 state universities may be cheaper than in other states but it’s still no easy purchase. While no part of the budget should be sacrosanct during budget hearings, lawmakers should be careful how they apply cuts to college funding.
Many students go into long-term debt to pay tuition and fees. Students often use loans to help pay for room and board. Student debt puts a drag on the economy and the students’ post-college efforts to achieve financial independence.
Haridopolos’ prediction of cuts to college funding comes on the heels of recent state-approved tuition increases at public universities and community colleges. In June, Daytona State College raised tuition by 8 percent.
Granted, tuition rates at public colleges and universities in Florida are below the national average. For the 2011-2012 school year, the average undergraduate tuition and fees at the University of Florida came to $5,700, according to the UF website. But add in books, housing, food and other expenses, and the costs jump to $19,800. It’s not cheap being a Florida college student.
But some lawmakers believe the state should decrease college funding while allowing public institutions of higher education to make up for the shortfalls.
“They have the ability to make ends meet with fees,” Haridopolos told the Tribune. “And they have reserves they can draw on. So those are all options that are on the table.”
But that means parents and students will have to huddle around kitchen tables and possibly cut their own college-related budgets.
College tuition, costs and related debt are major national problems. Costs keep going up, and students are relying more heavily on taxpayers and loans to attend college.
In the same interview, Haridopolos said the last place he wants to make cuts is to K-12 public education.
The whole point of K-12 education is to prepare students for further education and further training — a path that is now growing increasingly expensive and laden with debt for Florida’s citizens