Varying tuition rates drawing stiff opposition
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:58 p.m.
The ink is barely dry on the recommendations of the governor’s higher education task force, but already University of Florida faculty and students are rallying opposition to the plan.
Chief among their concerns is a recommendation to allow varying tuition rates for different universities and degree programs. Universities would freeze tuition for degrees that are highly sought by employers as it raised rates for other programs.
UF history professor Norman Goda said higher tuition in areas such as the liberal arts and social sciences would reduce their enrollment and lead those fields of study to be cut.
“Whole portions of the university’s mission and what the university does really begin to wither,” he said.
Goda and other history professors created an online petition against the recommendation that had garnered nearly 1,300 signatures as of Friday afternoon. Leaders of UF’s faculty and graduate assistant unions and members of Students for a Democratic Society held a press conference Friday to announce their opposition to the task force’s plan.
Robbey Hayes, a senior anthropology and Chinese major, said the tuition recommendation would create second-class degrees. He said he chose UF over out-of-state schools, but students like him might decide otherwise if the plan comes to pass.
“Ultimately I came here because I thought I could get a better education,” he said. “Now I think my degree isn’t worth as much.”
Gov. Rick Scott had said the state doesn’t need any more anthropology majors in making the case for more degrees in high-tech fields. He created the seven-member task force in May to suggest higher education reforms. It finalized its recommendations last week.
A spokeswomen for the governor said Friday that Scott was still reviewing the group’s work. Scott said last week that he looked forward to reading the report but continued to oppose raising tuition rates that rank among the lowest in the nation.
“Here’s what I like: We’re having a conversation now about affordability, we’re having a conversation about results, we’re having a conversation about what’s the right value for taxpayers of this state,” Scott said.
The recommendations include Scott’s idea of tying the funding of universities to their performance in measurements such as the percentage of employed graduates. Higher education leaders are considering the idea of pledging to not seek tuition increases next year, in exchange for additional funding that would be tied to their performance.
Another task force recommendation would make the Board of Governors, the governing body of the state university system, more involved in university presidential searches. UF is currently looking for President Bernie Machen’s successor and has a search committee that has one Board of Governors member, Ava Parker, on it.
“We think we are complying with the spirit of that recommendation,” UF Provost Joe Glover said Thursday to the Faculty Senate.
Glover told faculty “not to panic or get overwrought at this point” about the task force’s recommendations. The recommendations would need to go through a lengthy legislative process before taking effect, he said.
“This, like most other suggestions in this state, has a long way to go,” he said.
Contact staff reporter Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thecampussun.com for more stories on the University of Florida.
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