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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 30, 2015

Jeb Bush says that Florida has cheapest public college tuition

During a discussion about student debt at the CNBC Republican presidential debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich talked about bringing down college costs, prompting Jeb Bush to chime in about the low cost of tuition in Florida.

"We don't need the federal government to be involved in this, because when they do, we create a $1.2 trillion debt," said the former Florida governor during the Oct. 28 debate in Boulder, Colo. "In Florida, we have the lowest in-state tuition of any state, because there's accountability, just as John (Kasich) said. You'll create a much better graduation rate at a lower cost, and you won't indebt the next generation with recourse debt on their backs."

We wanted to know: Does Florida hold the No. 1 spot for lowest in-state college tuition?

Comparison of in-state tuition

Bush spokesman Matt Gorman said that when Bush left office in 2007, Florida had the lowest in-state tuition for a public four-year university among the 50 states. The data from the College Board bears that out: It was $3,881 for a four-year public university in 2006-07.

But during the debate, Bush didn’t say he was referring to when he ended his tenure as governor — he made it sound like he was talking in the present tense, so we looked at that data, too.

The College Board publishes an annual comparison of in-state tuition and fees at four-year public universities nationwide, comprised of survey data from almost 4,000 postsecondary institutions. The comparison refers to average price paid by a full-time student for one year of undergraduate enrollment.

For 2014-15, the lowest was Wyoming at $4,646, followed by Arkansas at $6,138; Utah at $6,177; New Mexico at $6,190; Montana at $6,279, and then Florida at $6,351. So Florida was the sixth-lowest, although four of the states were only between $72 and $213 cheaper than Florida.

"Florida is one of the most affordable states for public university tuition," said Ralph Aiello, who supervises college counselors for Broward County public schools in Florida.

The College Board produces a similar report comparing tuition for two-year degrees which showed that Florida was again on the low end but not at the cheapest spot in 2014-15.

"There are a number of reasons for the wide variation in published tuition and fees by state — state tuition philosophy, aid policy, economic conditions, and funding for higher education," said Jennifer Ma, the College Board’s policy research scientist. "For example, New Hampshire, which has the highest published tuition and fees for the public four-year sector in 2014-15, does not have a state grant aid program and has the lowest state appropriations on a per-student basis."

Bush specifically mentioned "tuition," but we’ll note that there are a lot of factors than influence the ultimate price tag for students, including fees, scholarships, financial aid and room and board.

Our ruling

Bush said, "In Florida, we have the lowest in-state tuition of any state."

That’s not accurate if we look at 2014-15 tuition for four-year public universities compiled by the College Board. That data shows Wyoming had the lowest tuition followed by Arkansas, Utah, New Mexico, Montana and Florida. Florida was the sixth-lowest.

Bush’s campaign said he was referring to Florida’s ranking as the lowest in 2006-07 when he left office, but he didn’t specify that timeframe during the debate.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

CNBC, Debate clip, Oct. 28, 2015

College Board, In-state tuition and fees, 2014-15

College Board, Trends in college pricing, 2014-15

College Board, Tuition and fees by sector over time, 2006-07

PolitiFact, "Hillary Clinton tweets that Florida got an F in college affordability under Jeb Bush," Aug. 14, 2015

PolitiFact, "Florida Dems say tuition went up 48.2 percent under Jeb Bush," June 30, 2015

Interview, Matt Gorman, Jeb Bush spokesman, Oct. 28, 2015

Interview José Rios, College Board staff member, Oct. 29, 2015

Interview, Ralph Aiello, Supervisor School Counseling, BRACE, & Academic Advisement Department of College and Career Readiness at Broward County public schools, Oct. 29, 2015

Interview, Cheryl Etters, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, Oct. 29, 2015

Interview, Brittany Davis, Florida Board of Governors spokesman, Oct. 29, 2015


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