Putting Education Reform To The Test

Session 2013 Town Hall: College Affordability And In-State Tuition

Jessica Meszaros/WLRN

Moderator Phil Latzman, Sen. Chris Smith, Sen. Jack Latvala, and The Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas made up the town hall panel.

Education took up a big chunk of the Fort Lauderdale town hall Monday hosted by WLRN and The Miami Herald.

Topics ranged from college affordability to K-12 funding to teacher raises.

Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas ran through some ideas lawmakers are considering.

“Gov. Scott has proposed an initiative that would give us a promise of $10,000 degrees, and several community colleges have signed on to basically promise a degree in four years that would not cost more than $10,000,” Klas said.

“There are some other initiatives as well. The Senate is heavily pushing an effort to tie any kind of degree with the job market,” Klas continued, “and they want to find incentives for students to take courses of study that are going to give them jobs.

“And they want to reward schools that push more students into those majors. So there’s a lot of performance based thinking in the Senate.

“And of course we’ve got the competition again between the universities and who’s going to be considered the premier university. That is a hot potato that’s always difficult to work through and will be again this session.”

Senator Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, elaborated on Gov. Scott’s $10,000 degree challenge for colleges.

“I think 19 of the state colleges have now answered the challenge and said they would do that. Keep in mind that many of those degrees are in business or high-tech areas – the information technology areas and so forth, which frankly are where the jobs are,” Latvala said.

“My area, we have a shortage of Java [a computer language] programmers,” Latvala said. “There are jobs, but there are no college grads to fill the jobs. So I think that’s a very important initiative that the Senate is undertaking.”

In-state tuition is also a big issue for young people whose parents are undocumented.

“A federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to charge Florida-born citizens higher out-of-state tuition rates if their parents are undocumented,” said town hall moderator Phil Latzman. “The Senate, though, has introduced a bill that would require those students to spend all of their high school years in a Florida school if they want to be charged cheaper tuition.”

They’d also have to apply to college within a year after they graduate from a Florida high school in order to qualify. Is that good enough to make folks happy, especially those that are here out of no fault of their own?” Latzman asked.

Sen. Latvala is a co-sponsor of the bill. He said it was an important step for him to acknowledge the Hispanics who live in his district, particularly a young woman who is now in a high school medical magnet program.

“It really struck me that she ought to have the right to go to a state school and pay in-state tuition,” Latvala said. “Yes, the courts have told us that we need to do it, but I think it’s also important that we change the statute to reflect that.”

Tomorrow, we’ll hear what the panel had to say about K-12 funding.


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