When Rick Scott isn’t slashing $300 million from higher education or signing into law a 12th university system which siphons funding from our already underfunded schools, he’s proposing an outrageous plan to raise tuition rates on college students seeking certain degrees. His latest disastrous plan, which education experts are calling a “very bad idea” for Florida’s higher ed system, is setting off a firestorm among college students who are rallying in protest.
For a Governor who campaigned on less government and more freedom, Scott’s plan directly thwarts the free market and puts the state in the business of picking winners and losers. Goodbye Tea Party, hello Socialism?
A group of Florida State University students marched from downtown Tallahassee’s Kleman Plaza into the Florida State Capitol Friday to present the opinion of the FSU student senate on the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s recommendations for improving higher education in Florida.
Chanting slogans such as, “The students united will never be defeated,” and waving heart-shaped picket signs, the group of more than 30, which consisted primarily of members of FSU’s Progress Coalition, convened in Kleman Plaza, where several students gave speeches on the BRTF recommendations.
“The Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations would do nothing more than push students down more than we already have been,” said Jeremy Funt, a member of Progress Coalition who spoke in front of the crowd. “They would weigh us down with more debt than we already have.”
The group proceeded to march to the Capitol, where they read aloud the FSU student senate’s opinion on the recommendations outside Gov. Scott’s office, though the governor was not present at the reading.
“We the students of the Florida State University do not believe these recommendations are in the best interest of students, faculty, or the state university system,” said Ralph Wilson, an FSU student senator and the president of Progress Coalition. “These are the findings of the people who are actually taking the time to analyze and criticize the policy coming out of this state’s executive office.”
According to Wilson, Florida State’s Student Government Association is the first university SGA in Florida to deliver its opinion on the BRTF recommendations. The senate positions rejected most of the recommendations.
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott created the seven-person Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education in an executive order last May to examine and make recommendations concerning the function and efficiency of the State’s public universities and colleges.
Since putting forth its recommendations for improving Florida higher education in November, the BRTF has drawn criticism from many students, who fear that, if put into law, the recommendations would give the Board of Governors, the current governing body of the Florida State University System, increased control over the system.
But the BRTF recommendation that has drawn the most controversy is that of differentiated tuition, which could raise tuition for certain majors deemed less marketable, such as history, political science and philosophy. Based on the needs of Florida’s job market, students majoring in subjects such as engineering, biology and mathematics would pay less in tuition.
Lissa Reed, a student at FSU and a participant in Friday’s march, said she fears the BRTF recommendations would stifle humanities and art programs in Florida’s public universities. She was among the students to speak during the rally.
“I’m a music major, and if these Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations go through, my tuition will raise astronomically,” Reed said. “Many students will have to switch to majors that are cheaper because of tuition and programs like the Music program will fall apart, and I just can’t bear to see that happen.”
The students also delivered “valentines” to the offices of the members of the Florida Senate Committee on Higher Education, explaining “why students love higher education” and stating the opinions of the student senate. Elizabeth Martin, a participant in the rally said she believes the valentines made a poignant statement.
“We’re not just emailing these representatives our opinions,” Martin said. “We don’t want to be passive about this. We’re trying to use everything we have to show the people making state policies that we care about higher education and we’re willing to be active and stand up for our universities.”