Fields: Skyrocketing State College Tuitions Is Bad Economics



sam fields


How and when did higher education go from being a government investment in our future to being an expense on this year’s budget?

Universities are now viewed as a cost — no different than legislative salaries or garbage collection?

That thought crossed my mind when I read that Florida universities’ tuition are now over $6,200 a year.  Amazingly, we are one of the cheaper states.

When I graduated North Miami High School in 1962 tuition was $200!

Just 10 years ago, in the 2003-2004 school year, the average state tuition for a Florida resident was $2,887.

That’s an increase over the decade in tuitions of more than 110 percent!

During the same 10 year period, the inflation rate averaged 2.3 percent annually.

Clearly, recent governors and legislators have made a decision that higher education is an expense that should be paid for by the customers and not the taxpayers.

Why the change?

Some of the reason is that some governors and legislators – mostly Republican — are rich…whether they were born or worked their way into it.  They don’t see $54,000 the same way that the middle class family does. Their kids go to private schools that cost that much each year.  Tuition of “only” $6,200 a year is doing the working family a favor.  It fits in with recent studies that show that wealthy people lack empathy.

Here’s the irony.

By word and deed, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and many legislators have shown they believe that free, top notch K-12 public education keeps Florida competitive in the American and world economies.

Everyone agrees…even if we argue over the path to that goal.

First rate public schools K thru 12 means a stronger economy and better jobs.  A stronger economy and better jobs is what the Republican Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott says they want.

The reality is different. You can’t raise tuitions or cut Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program by hundreds of millions and claim to be a supporter of investing in our youth.

An “expense” is money paid without return.

“Investment” anticipates getting back your money and then some.

History has proven that higher education is perhaps the best investment there is for the economy.

Consider the G.I. Bill of 1944.

Doubters, including the Presidents of Harvard and the University of Chicago, challenged the efficacy of taxpayers sending a bunch of G.I. grunts to college. To them, it was a waste of tax dollars that would dilute the quality of the nation’s colleges.

Ignoring the doubters, the G.I Bill became the law.

The number of college graduates jumped from 160,000 in 1940 to 500,000 in 1950. These better-educated citizens got higher quality jobs and earned more money.  They bought homes, new cars and sent their kids to college.

Spending money for higher education after World War II helped create an American economic boom that repaid government dozens of times over.

Put another way, ask yourself this. The twelfth grade, which ends in June, is free.  The thirteenth grade, which begins in September, is $6,200 and rising.

Exactly what’s happening over the summer???

9 Responses to “Fields: Skyrocketing State College Tuitions Is Bad Economics”

  1. Sam The Sham says:

    I think that worthless degrees like art appreciation, history and journalism should pay the true costs of $6200 or $10K or whatever it happens to be. No state subsidies. These courses should be electives in valuable degrees like sciences and engineering. These valuable degrees should have reduced tuition. There might also have to be certain grades standards to achieve the subsidies.

    I think law students should also pay the full rate. Now I don’t berate all lawyers, some of them really are as smart as they think they are (Sam Fields excluded, of course). The problem is we have too many of them already.

    We should also revamp the college system and get rid of a lot of tenured dead wood. A lot of these guys sit on their ass and let graduate students and associate professors do all the work.

    The GI Bill worked very well, but it is not a model for expanding government or subsidizing education. It is a model for repaying a debt to brave men and women who sacrifice a large part of their lives to keep us free.

  2. Floridan says:

    I think you are giving the governor and legislators too much of a pass when you imply that because they are rich they just don’t understand the hardship that raising tuition imposes on most families.

    Rather, I would say they know exactly what they are doing — balancing the budget on the backs of the college students and their families. Raising tuition means fewer state dollars have to go to FSU, UF, FAU and the other state universities. It’s a cynical game.

    Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, my wife and I were able to pay our tuitions at state universities and our living expenses with part time jobs. Now, a student would have to work 20 hours a week all year at minimum wage just to pay tuition alone.

  3. Sam The Sham Is A Sham says:

    Sam the Sham demeans certain degrees as “worthless.”
    The Shamster says that engineering and science should be subsidized and lists other degrees as “worthless.” By who’s definition is any education worthless?
    There are journalists working on Fox News who have journalism degrees. I would bet the Sham doesn’t think those are “worthless.”
    There are thousands of teachers with history degrees teaching children about our country. Are they “worthless?”
    What about education? Teachers earn less and are entrusted with our children, whether they teach in a public or private school. This is obviously a valuable job. Shouldn’t their education be subsidized?
    Universities aren’t trade schools. They are a place to sample many different disciplines and decide what road to take. Many 18-21 year olds have no idea what they are going to do in the future and still become successes and valuable members of society
    BTW, George W. Bush has an undergraduate degree in history.

  4. Duke says:

    Tuition is getting more expensive everywhere. Then there’s the game that colleges play with the text books having to be new editions every year and their mark-up.

    I am so grateful to my dad. If not for him I don’t know where I would be today. First he demanded that I go to college, then he paid for it. I was lucky and I will never forget it.

    Don’t know how some folks can afford to do it in this day and age. I see a lot of folks saddled with loans.

    It’s as if only folks from a higher economic background can go to college without having to take out loans. The days of working one’s way through school are probable long gone.

  5. Realist says:

    First-know that Florida students who excel at academics have an opportunity to earn college credit while in high school. It’s rare, but it is possible to graduate with an AA at the same time they receive their high school diploma.

    Local colleges like Broward College offer a very affordable way to earn half of a 4 year degree while living at home. Students can then go on to a state university to earn a 4 year degree and even if they live in dorms the cost is low. Florida is very fair with in state tuition. In fact, the cost is less than I paid 20 years ago in PA for my state school bachelors degree.

  6. sam fields says:

    Duke is right

    In 1962 minimum wage was $1. In 2014 it is $7.93.

    In 1962 you had to work 25 days to pay a year’s tuition of $200. Today you have to work 98 days for the $6200.

  7. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    One of the smartest things my wife and I ever did was buy each of our kids Florida Pre-Paid Tuition Plan.

    Sure, buying one today is more expensive than it was 16 years ago. But the return on investment, especially given the inevitable increases in costs over those years, may even be greater than the return we got from our plan.

    Florida has many great, strongly ranked state colleges. These plans cover tuition, fees, dorm or any combination at any state college or university.

    Or, if your kid chooses to attend a private school, the value of the plan converts into a voucher at a pre-set rates — not the greatest option, but you don’t lose your money either.

    Have little kids? Plan to stay in Florida for a while? Do yourself a favor.

    Take a strong look at this plan. You’ll thank me for the suggestion. And no, I have no financial arrangement whatsoever with them. I’m simply a very satisfied customer.


  8. Broward Resident says:

    Lets cut taxes across the board for business in Florida and then raise tuition rates for colleges so that we can attract businesses that employ only low wage workers who cant afford to go to college and the business owners can get rich off of modern day slave wages. Its the American Dream!

  9. Duke says:

    Commissioner Castillo is correct about the prepaid college tuition plan.

    Realist is also correct about the ways to save money when trying to go to college. A lot of bright kids are graduating from High School with an AA or close to it, or staying at home for 2 years while they get an AA. I did my 2 years at BCC, took my 60 credits and transferred to a 4 year school.