Make Florida No. 1 in higher education affordability

"Gov. Scott’s vision for the public, higher education system focuses on the following goals that will give Florida a competitive edge over other states: Be No. 1 in university and college affordability."


Rick Scott wants Florida to have lowest public university tuition in nation

Gov. Rick Scott, who helped finance his own college education with the GI bill and working at a doughnut shop, wants to keep the cost of public college low for Floridians.

During his 2014 reelection campaign, he promised to "make Florida No. 1 in higher education affordability." Scott will hold a "Degrees to Jobs Summit" in Orlando on May 24-26 so we decided it was a good time to check in on his progress.

Florida already offers one of the lowest college public four-year educations in the nation. Although there are four states that offer a lower cost, three of them are literally just a few dollars less.

According to the College Board, Florida's public four-year public college/university average per year was $6,360 in 2015-16. The states that were lower were Montana at $6,351, New Mexico at $6,355 and Wyoming at $4,891.

Florida's tuition went from sixth lowest in the country in 2014-15 to fourth lowest in 2015-16, according to the College Board.

But for a few years, Florida had the lowest average public four-year tuition and fees from 2004-05 through 2007-08, according to the College Board.

In 2014 while running for reelection, Scott signed a bill curbing the "tuition differential" which allowed universities to tack on an extra increase in tuition. The bill signed by Scott got rid of tuition differential for all universities except for University of Florida and Florida State University, and for those two universities it dropped from an annual maximum of 15 percent to 6 percent. (The same bill also established in-state tuition for certain illegal immigrants who arrived here as children.)

Scott has also provided funding to "preeminent universities" and "emerging preeminent universities" and performance funding that has "enabled universities to improve in quality without tuition increases," Davis said.

Penn State higher education professor Roger Geiger said Florida deserves credit for keeping tuition low but offered a word of caution.

"If you want to be like the University of Wyoming, you could cut tuition; but if you want to have a distinguished research university, you would do well to keep it where it is," he said.

We will keep tabs on Florida's tuition to see if Scott achieves his goal of making the state No. 1 in affordability, but for now we rate this promise In the Works.



College Board, Tuition and fees by sector and state over time, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott, Degrees to Jobs summit, May 24-26

Florida Board of Governors, "2015‐16 Undergraduate Tuition & Fees by State Florida Ranks 48th," 2015-16

Miami Herald, "Gov. Rick Scott, lawmakers tangle with universities over tuition costs," March 12, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Florida agency's misleading attack on California's minimum wage hike," May 4, 2016

Interview, Jose Rios, College Board spokesman, May 5, 2016

Interview, Brittany Davis, Florida Board of Governors spokeswoman, May 10, 2016

Interview, Roger Geiger, Distinguished Professor of Education (Higher Education) and Senior Scientist at Penn State University, May 21, 2016