Thursday, May 24, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Scott and cutting the cost of prepaid tuition

Students, teachers and a mom praise Gov. Rick Scott's record on higher education and bash that of Democratic front-runner Charlie Crist in a TV ad released this month by the Republican Party of Florida.

"You know, college has become so expensive. Gov. Crist was a governor that was not looking out for Florida. Tuition skyrocketed. You know, Charlie Crist made college cost more. Charlie Crist did not make education a priority," states the ad, as a 2009 Tampa Bay Times headline flashes on the screen, citing a tuition increase of up to 15 percent.

"Rick Scott has put a lot of money back into education," the ad continues. "Gov. Rick Scott cut the cost of prepaid college tuition by nearly $20,000. A lot of my students now see hope. Rick Scott has made college more affordable."

Has Scott cut the cost of prepaid college tuition by nearly $20,000?

The Florida Legislature created the Stanley G. Tate Prepaid College Program in 1987.

Here's how it works: Families set up an advanced payment contract, typically paying a monthly fee. This allows families to lock in to many of the costs associated with college and apply that when their children head off to college.

For example, someone who purchased a contract earlier this year for a newborn would lock in to pay $350 a month, which would generate enough money to cover college tuition when his or her child enrolls in 2032. (Parents can also sign up children in later years, though that increases the monthly cost.) While the plans are designed to cover tuition at universities and other schools here in Florida, the money can be applied to schools in other states.

About 80 percent of families choose the monthly option, which includes interest, so they end up paying more over 18 years than those who pay the lump sum up front. (It operates much like a mortgage — homeowners pay less over the term of a mortgage if they pay it off more quickly.)

More than 1.6 million prepaid plans have been purchased, and nearly 350,000 students have attended college using these plans.

The program is popular, but the amount for new plans skyrocketed in 2008 and again in 2010 — for example, the lump-sum payment rose from about $22,000 in 2009 to $40,000 in 2010. The hikes were a result of the Legislature's approval of the "tuition differential" that allowed universities to tack on an extra increase in tuition of up to 15 percent. The prepaid college board assumed that universities would use that maximum amount, sending the costs into an upward spiral.

In 2014, the Legislature passed HB 851, which will cause the prepaid program to drop in cost, starting with the enrollment period that begins Oct. 15. The bill lowers tuition costs because it does the following:

• It eliminates automatic annual rate-of-inflation increases for all universities.

• It gets rid of the tuition differential for all but two universities (the University of Florida and Florida State University).

Also, for UF and FSU, the tuition differential drops from an annual maximum of 15 percent to 6 percent.

The bill passed the House 84-32 and the Senate 26-13, and Scott signed it June 9.

For the prepaid plans, the price of the four-year university plan will be reduced by "at least $10,000" for future participants, according to a House staff analysis of the bill. Additionally, thousands of families already participating in prepaid plans will get refunds or reductions, depending on the plan.

The Florida Prepaid College Board cites an even bigger savings on its website: The lump-sum price of the four-year Florida university plan for newborns is anticipated to drop nearly $20,000 from its current price of $54,000 to $35,000 or less.

For those who choose the monthly payments for the same plan, the board anticipates that the monthly payments will drop at least $100, from $350 to $250 or less. Over the life of a plan, that could add up to about $22,000 less than before the Legislature passed this bill, a spokeswoman for the prepaid board told PolitiFact Florida.

More precise figures under both scenarios will emerge in September, when the board sets costs for the new enrollment period.

We asked Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for Florida House speaker Will Weatherford, why the House staff analysis cited a savings of "at least $10,000," while the prepaid board said savings would add up to "nearly $20,000."

The $10,000 figure was a conservative estimate provided by the prepaid college board in February, based on an earlier version of the bill, Duffy said. That lower figure did not include the changes to the tuition differential.

The main caveat here is that Scott doesn't get full credit: the Legislature signed off on the bill, too.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/florida.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18