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Education board vice chair criticizes Gov. Scott’s $10K degree challenge

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A $10,000 college degree is not practical — especially after consistent budget cuts. That’s what Florida Board of Education Vice Chair Roberto Martinez wrote Gov. Rick Scott in a letter.

On Monday, Scott challenged Florida’s community and state colleges to create four-year degrees that would cost no more than $10,000.

Martinez criticized the plan, saying it’s not a serious policy and would be “perceived as a gimmick pretending to be a policy used as a sound bite.”

“I think that the announcement by the governor was short on details,” Martinez said.  “The goal of an affordable education, that’s everybody’s goal — and that’s been the goal, in the case of the colleges since they were founded in 1933. Nobody disagrees with the goal. The problem is with the details. I didn’t see any details that went along with it.”

The Florida Democratic Party also criticized the proposal, noting Scott supported a $300 million spending cut for state universities this year and reductions in merit-based Bright Futures scholarships.

Scott’s challenge came just three weeks after his Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform recommended that Florida’s 12 universities be allowed to increase tuition rates if they meet certain quality criteria. That is something Scott has opposed in the past, although Florida’s tuition rates are among the lowest in the nation.

“Reducing this further, to create a cheap four-year degree, will undermine the quality and value of the education, hurting our students’ chances to compete successfully in our 21st century economy,” Martinez wrote Scott.

Martinez said he hopes his letter will persuade the governor to reconsider the challenge and provide more details.

“The question is where is that money is going to come from,” he said. “The concern I have is that other programs being offered by the colleges, they will be cannibalized to provide a degree for $10,000 as the governor has challenged.”

He recommended that Scott get input from the board of education about how to make higher education more affordable without sacrificing quality.

“I was hoping that he would say that he was going to be asking the legislature to appropriate more funding to the colleges. And I didn’t see any of that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Hana Engroff

Hana is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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