TAMPA — Republican governor candidate Adam Putnam said Tuesday that the state is "selling Florida universities cheap to out-of-state students" and suggested tuition should be higher for non-residents.
"We're now a world class university system," said Putnam, the state's agriculture commissioner. "Make people earn it."
A year at the University of Florida for a non-resident costs $28,658, while an out-of-state student pays $21,515 for a year at Florida State, $17,324 at University of South Florida and $22,466 at University of Central Florida.
Across the entire state university system, the average tuition for two semesters as a full-time student is $20,630 for non-Floridians.
Putnam, himself a University of Florida product, said those were "Auburn prices" and "we ought to be charging Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina) and UVA (University of Virginia) and (University of) Michigan's tuition to be an out-of-state student."
University of North Carolina collects $34,938 a year from an out-of-state student — $6,000 more than University of Florida. Students from outside Virginia pay $44,724 a year at the state's flagship university and its more than $47,000 for a non-Michigander to be a Wolverine.
"If you want to come to Florida, if you want to enjoy everything Florida's got, and we're going to take the hit for creating spaces for out-of-state students anyway, why in the world are we selling Florida cheap?" Putnam asked.
Putnam's remarks came at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Learners to Earners Workforce Summit in Tampa, a gathering of business and community leaders aimed at ensuring the state's job needs align with its learning systems.
Putnam's campaign has focused on new investments in vocational training, technical schools and state colleges, but on Tuesday he was asked how he would bolster the state's university system.
In addition to raising out-of-state tuition, he said the state needed to set standards that all universities must meet and new metrics to compare those schools to their peers in other states.
Nevertheless, Putnam believes the university system is in better shape to prepare high school graduates than state colleges, which he said can help train workers for jobs that Florida businesses are looking to fill.
"There has to be a plan there for us to continue to advance our university mission, and the legislature, I think, has done an exceptional job of supporting the university mission," Putnam said. "I think there's some work to be done in supporting the state college mission."