Beginning Jan. 2, USF has provided a link to a report created by Engaging Latino Communities for Education. The organization, known as ENLACE, is focused on increasing college accessibility and readiness for underrepresented college students. The report documents ENLACE’s belief that the decision by Governor Charlie Crist to approve a 5 percent tuition increase – about $77.50 a semester for students taking 15 credit hours – will hinder the college opportunities for many.

The primary problem with the newsletter, which is featured on the front page of the school’s Web site, is that it uses the badly needed tuition increase to support ENLACE’s claims.

As the newsletter rightly states, one of the most burdensome aspects of attending college for Florida students is the cost of attendance beyond the tuition. Housing, books, health insurance and food costs are harder to meet when a person is enrolled full time. While Florida Bright Futures scholarships would still be able take care of tuition despite the increase, ENLACE uses statistics from those additional costs to show the dangers of the 5 percent tuition hike.

The state, and these organizations, should focus on the other issues that prevent would-be students from receiving an education. Food stamps and Medicare, government programs that aid other taxpayers, are prevented from being given to most college students. These programs, or the taxes paid by employed students, that go toward these programs need to be reevaluated long before a minimal tuition increase.

The state, its universities and Crist cannot be blamed for the tuition increases. As the cost of everything else in society increases, it is only expected that the cost of an education will as well. Even with a minor tuition increase, moreover, the benefits of a college education are worth the loans and work that goes into receiving it. To put the increase in perspective, that $77.50 required to maintain basic university functions is equal to giving up 22 tall Starbucks lattes a semester – less than two per week.

The tuition also goes toward improvements to the school and to secure the best education possible. If the funds needed by schools in a state system enduring massive budget cuts aren’t coming from tuition, where will they come from? These moves are needed to prevent higher education from depending on financial bailouts and contracts with companies and corporations with their own agendas outside of student enlightenment.

While ENLACE and other organizations are searching to even the playing field in college attendance, it is our hope that they will advocate the most effective use of students’ money.