by Mitch Perry
On Monday morning, Gov. Rick Scott visited St. Petersburg College in Clearwater — one of several stops throughout the day — touting his challenge to state colleges and universities to offer $10,000 degrees. That's not asking for tuition to be less than $10,000 a semester — it's for the entire four years.
One of the governor's first stops was at WFLA-Newschannel 8 in South Tampa. Watch his interview with anchor Gayle Guyardo.
Governor Scott: ..Think about your family: You want to make sure you can get a job. Make sure your child can get a great education so they can live the American dream and keep the cost of living low. Today what I’m doing is challenging our state colleges: can they come up with ten thousand dollars degrees? You should be able to work and go to school and not end up with debt. If these degrees cost so much money, tuition is so high, that's not going to happen. I have put out this challenge to our state colleges; we have 28 great state colleges and say can you come up with degrees where individuals can get jobs that the total degree costs $10,000?
TV Host: And that is important because a lot of college graduates are paying so much money in student loans, they can't even find employment, or they're underemployed. And this is debt that doesn't go away. To make matters worse, the Bright Scholarships and all the things that would help students in the past just aren't there anymore. So, everybody has to work together.
Governor Scott: Right. Here's what we should expect out of our higher ed: we ought to say “When you graduate, are you getting a job? Or are you going on to an advanced degree? What is the cost per degree to get a degree? How much does it cost in state money and your family's money. And finally, how much do you make after you graduate?” Today what I’m doing is saying to our state colleges, “Can you come up with $10,000-degrees, where people can get great jobs, do what you want when you went to school, you went there to make more money, so you could live your version of the American dream?”
TV Host: But it might be like $10,000 nor a certain degree. But if you want maybe a biology degree or something tougher, maybe or jobs you want to see people secure, it may cost more.
Governor Scott: My goal is that we really think about how we can reduce over the overall cost of higher ed. Look, if you're in business, your customer expects you to lower your prices every year. Figure out efficient ways of doing things. We have to have the same expectations of our state colleges and our universities. So I’m going to start with our state colleges and say look, can you come up with these $10,000 degrees and hopefully we can figure out a way, start with a few, and continue to expand.
No doubt this is a populist move that may win the hearts of Floridians whose kids are about to enter college, but as most people realize, Florida's tuition costs are below the national average. And with the Legislature cutting funding for higher education, state university presidents say they've needed to raise tuition rates, which they've been doing frequently in recent years.
For the 2011-12 academic year, annual tuition at Florida state universities averaged $5,626, an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year, when the average was $5,034.
Scott has been on the lowering tuition bandwagon for awhile. More than a year ago, he told conservative talk show host Bob Rose that he didn't understand "why education has to continue to cost more money each year."
Scott also made headlines last year when he asked "Do we need to use your tax dollars to educate more people that can't get jobs in anthropology?" adding that he wanted colleges and universities to graduate more students from in-demand areas in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.