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EDITORIAL: College System should be last on list of concerns

Florida’s State University System is facing a budget crisis and is in the midst of a battle with legislators over who should be allowed to govern the system and set tuition. Maybe now is not the best time for politicians to focus on establishing a State College System.

A bill in Florida’s Senate seeks to create such system. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the bill is meant to enable eight community colleges in Florida to begin expanding the four-year bachelor’s degrees they offer and is a “project aimed at improving access to higher degrees.”

Florida’s community colleges chancellor, Will Holcombe, wrote an editorial for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, in which he expressed the importance of access to bachelor’s degrees.

“In today’s global marketplace, a college degree has become the minimum standard for many of the nation’s top jobs and is often the key to a successful career,” Holcombe wrote.

Because of the Florida Bright Futures program and the state’s already low in-state tuition, Florida is ranked 46th in the nation in tuition costs, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. This means higher education in Florida is already accessible – perhaps too accessible.

It is easy to imagine that USF’s abysmal 47 percent graduation rate might be a result of students who are in the university system simply because they can afford it and because it’s promoted as the next logical step.

The brutal truth the politicians are overlooking is that they, themselves, are devaluing degrees by making them as accessible as they are. Not all jobs require bachelor’s degrees. Many college graduates may find that they will be settling for minimum wage jobs, driving down the value of degrees to that of a high school diploma or GED.

There is also the financial aspect to consider. Now is not the time for Florida to be wasting money on new programs and tweaking old systems. Instead, valuable taxpayer funds should be going toward improving existing institutions and programs.

At a time when the State University System is suffering massive budget cuts, the last thing Florida should do is spend money to revamp a community college system that isn’t in need of improvement.