College degrees worth more than bargain price

You have to spend money to make money.

Granted, one would prefer to spend as little as possible, but generally, a significant investment is required to attain a corresponding value. It is this truism that makes the concerns over the tuition increases proposed by the Florida Legislature so confusing.

According to a recent article in the St. Petersburg Times, both the House and the Senate have passed a bill that calls for a “differential tuition” to be implemented at three Florida universities. Under this bill, the University of Florida and Florida State University could increase tuition up to 40 percent more than the base state tuition, while USF could exceed the base state tuition by up to 30 percent. Each of the three universities would be restricted to a 15 percent increase per year.

When asked whether he would veto the bill, Florida Governor Charlie Crist said it was “a strong maybe.” Crist has maintained a stance against tuition increases since he took office.

Such a stance is an admirable attempt to keep higher education accessible to all. In this case, however, a veto serves only to inhibit the progress of Florida’s universities.

Florida tuition – $3,416 yearly – is among the lowest nationwide. The national median is $5,838 and reaches a high of $11,905 in Pennsylvania. The planned increases – to be implemented over four years – would bring UF and FSU to approximately $3,750, with USF moving up to nearly $3,700. Neither of these totals comes near the median. In exchange for these modest increases, the three universities will see a much-needed increase of $20 million or more in revenue.

Among the arguments against the increase is that presented by Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach, who said “If we want to pay for future instructors and improvements, we ought to put it in our budget. We shouldn’t do it on the backs of students.”

This argument overlooks a key fact: It is the student who benefits most from a quality college education. Why shouldn’t they be expected to pay for it?

Obtaining a college degree is a choice. A student makes this choice in the interest of improving their future job prospects and earning potential. No one forces them to pay any tuition, large or small. Asking the students themselves, and not the taxpayers at large, to accommodate an increase that amounts to less than $300 annually is, therefore, quite reasonable.