Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

At universities, the real bargain is excellence, not tuition

We had run out to Target in Gainesville to pick up the last few items our older son, Noah, needed for college.

We bought an extension cord and a desk lamp, passing the toy aisle where not that long ago we were buying Legos.

After lunch at Chipotle and hugs in the parking lot, Noah drove off toward his dorm, while my wife, Laura, and I headed back to Interstate 75 and home.

Of all our bittersweet moments as parents, this was the bitterest and sweetest, hands down: losing our boy, but to a good school.

Of course, it would have been sweeter if the school were just a little bit better.

As you might have heard, the University of Florida is an incredible bargain.

U.S. News and World Report — which, like it or not, has become the last word on this topic — gives Florida the not-bad ranking of 17th best public university in the country.

Meanwhile, the school's annual tuition (including fees for items such as access to gyms) comes to $5,656 for in-state students. That's less than half the cost of many states' flagship universities and a pittance to compared to comparable private schools, where tuition and fees typically exceed $40,000 per year.

Plus, in Florida, parents can take advantage of generous and widely available Bright Futures scholarships and the Florida Prepaid program, which allowed our family — thank you, Grandfather Booth! — to lock in the 1995 four-year tuition price of $10,400.

It's a great thing to keep quality eduction within the reach of so many residents. It's great that our state has worked so hard to control generally out-of-control college costs, great that UF has avoided the arms race in providing the sumptuous accommodations that have driven up the price of education at many schools. No kid needs a cafeteria worker on hand to cook them locally sourced omelets to order, which I actually witnessed on a visit to a private school.

The problem is, this politically driven cost-consciousness comes with its own cost: declining quality.

Yes, there have been some significant tuition increases at UF in recent years. The school is also due to receive $15 million in each of the next five years as one of the state's "preeminent universities."

But that hardly makes up for the loss of $200 million in state appropriations since 2007. And earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott made a pandering (and, thankfully, unsuccessful) attempt to block a meager 1.7 percent cost-of-living tuition increase, which he labeled as a "tax increase."

That kind of thinking has forced UF and other state schools to rely more and more on part-time and adjunct professors and to allow the school's ranking among public universities to slip since 2006 from 13th place.

It will take more money, more tuition, to meet the state's goal of bringing UF into the top 10, alongside schools such as the University of North Carolina. People there pay a little more, but in return get a top-flight education, which sounds like a real bargain.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18