Florida students rally for higher education

As a college degree becomes increasingly vital in this crushing economy, the past five years have seen budget cuts take a huge toll on the affordability and accessibility of higher education. The latest case is in Florida, where Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is attempting to raise tuition by 15% every year for up to a decade. This move is in combination with a 24% cut in state funding of public universities throughout the state over the last four years. Think Progress reports on how students are pushing back against this "relentless attack on higher education":

Throughout this week, Florida college students will hold rallies to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) hostility to higher educationand proposed tuition hikes:

Across the state this week students at seven college campuses will gather to protest what they call a “relentless attack on higher education” by Gov. Rick Scott.Scott has been a vocal skeptic of the liberal arts emphasis of traditional higher ed. [...] Last month he sent out a lengthy probe out to leaders of all 11 public universities, seemingly asking them to justify themselves by providing information about their costs, programs and graduates’ chosen fields and salaries.

According to the protesters’ press release, “Along with the Florida Legislature, Gov Scott has taken aim at students through countless bills. The tuition of all state universities is poised to rise 15 percent each year for up to a decade.” They also note that the state’s academic scholarship, Bright Futures, is covering less each year, and the program could lose funding all together. Additionally, “this attack on public education comes within the context of an economic downturn affecting hard working middle class Floridian families.”

Florida’s public university system has already seen a 24 percent drop in state funding over the last four years. Yet Scott wants to make more deep cuts to Florida’s public school liberal arts programs, needlessly politicizing academic disciplines and devaluing the skills of millions.

Scott caused an uproar last month when he said the state didn’t need any more anthropology majors, arguing that liberal arts fields should receive less state funding because, he claimed, they don’t help “create jobs” or spur the economy. (Ironically, Scott paid $18,000 a year for his own daughter to major in anthropology in college.)

In March, Scott faced protests from students, teachers, and parents after he unveiled a state budget proposal that slashed $3.3 billion from all levels of schools statewide, which many said would wipe out music, art, and language programs. Education was the main target of Scott’s $5 billion in proposed spending cuts — part of his plan to gut and voucherize public education. Public school officials said his 10 percent cut to education would reduce spending by $703 for each student, cut the average teacher’s salary by $2,335, and result in thousands of teacher layoffs.

 Read the article on Think Progress here.

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