On a 5-4 vote, a Senate committee approved a bill allowing undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities. The bill still faces significant opposition in the full committee and on the Senate floor.
NPR has started a series of conversations about paying for the rising cost of college.
For their first interview, NPR spoke with David Sherker, a student at Coral Reef High School in Miami, and his family. President Barack Obama recently spoke at the school to encourage students to apply for federal financial aid and prod Congress to approve $100 million in ideas to make college more affordable.
The rising cost of college is frightening. From the story:
The College Board says the average at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 27 percent beyond the rate of inflation over the five years from the 2008-09 academic year to 2013-14. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of tuition more than tripled between 1973 and 2013.
That reality has been forcing more and more students to take on staggering debts. Among all students who graduated from four-year colleges in 2012, seven in 10 left with debt.
And that debt load is heavy — an average of , according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Just 20 years ago, fewer than half of college students graduated with debt, and the amount was less than $10,000 on average.
But as we and others have noted: Not going to college will cost you. The earnings gap between those with a bachelor’s degree and those without is at a 50-year high.
Listen to the interview below:
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended the American Institutes for Research produce Florida’s next statewide exam.
The new, as-yet-unnamed test is required because Florida is finishing the switch to new math, language arts and literacy standards largely based on the Common Core State Standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. The current Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was not designed for the new standards.
“The new assessment will include more than just multiple choice or simple fill-in-the-blank questions,” Stewart wrote in a letter to parents. “Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests.”
A Florida lawmaker has proposed allowing students to attend college tuition-free, and then repay the cost with a percentage of their salary after graduating.
The proposal has been nicknamed “Pay It Forward” tuition because students making their payments keep tuition free for future generations of college students. Students might pay their Alma mater between 2 percent and 6 percent of their annual salary for as long as 25 years, depending on the terms of the program.
The idea was first proposed in Oregon, which is creating a pilot program for lawmakers to consider. In Florida, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, introduced SB 738, which would launch a pilot program to create a Pay It Forward program.
Pay It Forward seems tempting on its face. The University of Florida charges $6,270 a year in tuition. The median Florida salary is $41,334 for a household with one earner. Assuming 3 percent payback over 25 years, that University of Florida degree would cost $31,000.
“It’s disarmingly apparent that it sounds like a good deal,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Florida State University researchers have won a grant to study the effects of a new state law making remedial math, reading and writing courses optional for many students at Florida’s two- and four-year state colleges.
Students who entered high school in the past decade and earned Florida’s standard high school diploma no longer have to take remedial courses, according to the law passed last year. In the past, about half the students who took the state college placement exam had to take at least one remedial course.
National statistics show students who take remedial courses are less likely to finish their studies. The courses do not earn college credit, and student can not start on their degree until finishing the courses.
Florida college officials say those students are more likely to be returning to school while managing a job and a family. (For more on why this happens, check out our 13th Grade series)
The intent of the law was to make it easier and faster for students to finish their degrees. The Florida State researchers want to find out if that’s the case.
“This is the most significant state law affecting developmental education that we are aware of anywhere in the country,” FSU professor Shouping Hu said in a statement. “Because of its sweeping nature, it is critical that we begin documenting and evaluating its impact from the very beginning.”
A Republican state Senator says a proposed bill eliminating traditional pensions for many public employees will pass the same day it snows in Miami, according to the Florida Current. Teachers unions and other have said stopping the bill is a top legislative priority. For the record, weather forecasts predict the lowest temperature in Miami over the next 10 days will be 64 degrees.
Gov. Rick Scott said he will support a Senate bill granting in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants because the bill also would prevent universities from raising tuition above what lawmakers approve, according to the Associated Press.
Lawmakers have considered in-state tuition the past several years, but the bill has never made it through both the House and the Senate in the same year. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, supports in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater has introduced the bill in the Senate.
Standing in the way is Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who said he opposes the bill for those in the country illegally.
Florida schools will be giving a new standardized test about a year from now. But which test is still up in the air until Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announces her choice later this month.
A new test is needed because Florida schools will complete the transition to new math and language arts standards in every grade this fall. The standards are based on the Common Core standards fully adopted by Florida and 44 other states.
So does it matter to teachers if they don’t know yet who will create the test and what it will look like?
Not really, said Christina Phillips, a language arts teacher at Tampa’s Monroe Middle School.
“We’re doing everything in our power right now to prepare them for when they actually take that test,” she said. “Of course, we’re kind of, you know, sailing a ship out in the ocean not knowing exactly where we’re going right now because we don’t know exactly what the new test is going to be.”
Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is expected to recommend a test to (mostly) replace the FCAT this month.
A new test is needed because Florida is finishing the switch to new K-12 math, language arts and literacy standards this fall. The standards are largely based on Common Core standards fully adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia.
This evening, WUSF’s Florida Matters takes a look at the test decision with University of South Florida education historian Sherman Dorn, Pasco County assistant superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson, and Melissa Kicklighter, a vice president with the Florida PTA.
Dorn said we won’t know how much will change with the test until the decision is announced.
“It might be tests that are interesting and challenging,” he said. “It might be tests that are very close to what students experience with FCAT — or somewhere in between.”
Miami Jackson Senior High School has lost its appeal to become an A-rated school after disputing test scores , the Miami Herald reports.
The Florida Department of Education said the scores from students learning English would not have changed the school’s grade:
The state’s ruling was expected, even though Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in January that the “English Language Learner” students in question should not have counted toward the calculation of the school’s 2012-13 letter grade because they had not been enrolled in a U.S. school for a full year prior to the start of testing, as state law requires.
School and district testing officials argued that the disputed test scores caused Miami Jackson, which earned enough points to receive an “A,” to miss out on a requirement that at least a quarter of students test at proficient reading levels in order to avoid a one-grade drop.