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Florida Gov. Scott tells community colleges to 'hold the line on tuition'

Repeating what has become one of his mantras, Gov. Rick Scott told state community college leaders that he continues to oppose tuition increases.

"Hold the line on tuition," Scott told the group assembled this morning at the annual Community College Trustee Commission meeting in Palm Harbor, according to his prepared remarks.

During the speech, Scott spoke about he and his' wife's experiences as community college graduates who "needed a great eduation at an affordable cost." He said the higher education system, and especially community colleges, needs to make degrees more valuable by focusing on affordability and results.

Scott also took a pre-emptive strike at the report due this month from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. After vetoing tuition increases earlier this year, Scott tasked the panel with identifying ways to improve the state's colleges and universities.

"What we will not accept from the Blue Ribbon Task Force is a blind call for more money," Scott said, according to his prepared remarks. "In government, the all-too-frequent cry to fix any problem is to ask for more money. The problem is that Florida families are always the ones footing the bill."

The task force is still putting the finishing touches on its report, but the most recent draft version recommended allowing colleges to differentiate tuition by degree or program. Language found in earlier versions more clearly called for tuition increases, as well as additional state funding to allow Florida colleges to come in line with national averages.

Keeping costs low is the key, Scott told the community college leaders.

"One promising element that will be included in the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s report is their recognition that we must have higher education degrees that are affordable and therefore possible for the most students," he said. "For example, we must ensure that Florida students can earn a degree at a low cost of only $15,000 or even lower."

Scott was referring to the "two plus two" system where students earn an associate's degree at a community college then transfer to a state university for a bachelor's. The governor said the way it currently operates can be improved upon.

Right now, the average cost of a four-year degree at a Florida state university, including tuition and mandatory fees, is about $25,000. Community college tuition is much lower.