Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: University prepay may hurt quality

The cost of buying into Florida's prepaid tuition plan will plunge this fall thanks to a little-noticed provision in a new state law. That may sound like a great deal for parents investing in their child's future higher education. But in the long term, this is reinstating a bad policy that offers consumer price protection but potentially undermines the quality of Florida's public colleges and universities. Prepaid plans will be more affordable thanks to the law, but there's less guarantee the institutions will have the resources to provide a quality education when it's time to cash in.

Since 1988, the Florida Prepaid College Board has offered an attractive deal for families: Pay the tuition, dorm costs and/or fees all at once or in installments, locking in "tomorrow's prices at today's rates." They can buy a plan from the time a child is a baby, all the way up until high school, potentially saving thousands of dollars. But for most of the plan's existence, prepaid plan rates have been suppressed because the Legislature capped how much the plan had to actually pay a state college or university when the contract matured. The result: Colleges and universities could see discounted tuition receipts because their enrollees had prepaid tuition plans.

That cap was lifted in 2009 when the Legislature also implemented differential tuition at universities and scaled back the state's investment. Money was needed from somewhere. Without a cap and with annual tuition increases of up to 15 percent at universities, costs for prepaid plans grew quickly.

Now the new law (HB 851) will reduce those contract costs, both by restoring the cap but also because the state's differential tuition policy is being curtailed so only the University of Florida and Florida State University can charge it, and at a rate of no more than 6 percent. Florida Prepaid estimates the new law will bring down the cost of purchasing a four-year university contract for newborns by nearly $20,000 from its current price of $54,000. The board also estimates that about 26,000 existing prepaid plans will see refunds or deductions, totaling as much as $50 million.

That all sounds good until buyers consider that for all their commitment to investing in their child's future education, they have no guarantee the state will do its part. Between 2007 and 2012, as average tuition at state universities soared 69 percent, the state's contribution to higher education dipped 41 percent. So right now in Florida, students are spending dramatically more even as the institutions have significantly less to spend on them, meaning bigger classes and fewer offerings.

Continuing to cap artificially discounted prepaid tuition plans just increases the odds that shortchanging universities and state colleges is a long-term proposition in Florida. Lawmakers like the politics of lower-cost prepaid plans but they never acknowledge that the savings to the plan just shifts the burden onto other tuition payers and the taxpayer — or even worse, will force future education cuts. Families may like the lower prices, but ultimately may not be pleased with what their investment buys.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18