UPDATED -- Gov. Rick Scott is challenging administrators in the Florida College System to come up with degree programs that cost $10,000 or less.
Weve got to figure out a way we can keep the cost of education as low as possible, said Scott said while appearing on WCOA 1370 AM in Pensacola on Monday morning.
Im putting out a challenge today to our state colleges, what degrees can they come up with for $10,000 so you as an individual can get a degree?
Gary Chartrand, chairman of Floridas State Board of Education, called the governors challenge an innovative approach and others on his board appeared to agree.
State board member Barbara Feingold offered her support for the initiative.
Having access to the high-quality colleges in the Florida College System is a conduit for high school students into the work force, Feingold stated. The $10,000 degree programs lead to job creation and reducing employment.
The importance of access to affordable higher education cannot be overstated. It is critical for our students to be prepared for success in college and careers, added state board member Sally Bradshaw.
Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida College System, said Florida must be focused on affordability in higher education.
The efforts of our colleges to work to produce baccalaureate degrees at a lower cost should provide a major benefit to our students and help meet Florida's work force needs, Hanna stated in a release.
The institutions in the Florida College System are focused on providing a quality, affordable education and our colleges are nationally recognized for their strong college transfer process and growing work force program. Our colleges are ready to play an increasing role in producing high-quality graduates who meet Florida's work force needs.
Not everyone tied with the state college system is enamored of the challenge that copies the one issued in 2011 by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
State Board Vice Chairman Roberto Martinez, in a letter to the governors office, stated that while he supports Performance Based Funding, the challenge is a gimmick pretending to be policy.
We can always do better. I welcome your interest in this area, Martinez wrote.
But, I respectfully request that any Performance Based Funding plan recognize that any such plan is meaningless unless it is adequately funded. The funding appropriated for our colleges has significantly decreased since 2008. Our colleges have produced at a very high level for a very long time with an ever-diminishing amount of funding.
Scott, as he continues to roll out his agenda for the 2013 legislative session, included the challenge in his appearance at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater Monday morning. He will also appear at Valencia College in Orlando at 4 p.m.
According to the California-based Institute for College Access & Success, the average Florida student graduated in 2009 with about $21,000 in debt.
The two schools where Scott will appear, part of the 28 campuses that comprise the Florida College System, cost considerably less than the $25,000 in tuition and fees that come with the average four-year degrees at a Florida state university.
In-state tuition and fees -- not including books -- at Valencia cost just under $3,000 in the 2011-2012 school year.
Appearing earlier on WFLA 970 AM in Tampa, Scott said he would continue his focus on holding the line on tuition increases and pumping up degree programs that are more in line with growing jobs fields when he appears at two colleges later today to make what his office says will be announcements on higher education.
When you went to junior college or college, you went there to get a better job and make more money, Scott said on WFLA. The cost has gone up, so weve got to make sure when people get their degrees, they can afford it without a lot of debt, hopefully none, and that they can get a better job.
The announcements are seen as a pre-emptive stance against expected calls from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Higher Education Reform that has looked at allowing state colleges to raise tuition on programs that are not deemed strategic areas of emphasis, which include science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; health professions; and high demand education fields.
In the spring, Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed some colleges to raise tuition on STEM programs.
On Nov. 1, Scott told state community college leaders that he continues to oppose tuition increases.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.