October 24, 2019

Florida’s Higher Education Cuts Harm Students Who Already Face the Greatest Barriers

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Despite funding increases in recent years, state spending per student remains below pre-recession levels

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida is among 41 states that cut higher education funding over the last decade, according to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Florida’s funding cuts disproportionately impact students who already face the greatest economic and racial barriers to higher education.

In 2018, state lawmakers invested 13.5 percent less per student — $1,306 — than they did in 2008, adjusting for inflation. During that same time period, tuition at Florida’s public, four-year colleges increased by 59.9 percent, or $2,382.

Higher tuition prices can dissuade students from enrolling in college, even if the net price (including aid) doesn’t rise. Tuition increases also reduce campus diversity, especially among students of color and those from households with low incomes.  

In 2017, according to CBPP, the average net price of attendance at Florida’s public, four-year colleges represented:

• 20 percent of median household income;

• 18 percent of white median household income;

• 26 percent of Black median household income; and

• 22 percent of Hispanic median household income.

“State lawmakers must ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable for all students,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute (FPI). “Investment in quality higher education should be a priority for the Florida Legislature as we move closer to the 2020 session.”

As noted in a recent FPI blog post, one step Florida lawmakers could take to increase the skills and diversity of its workforce, and dramatically improve the future of its children and communities, is to allow students, regardless of immigration status, to have access to state financial aid. Florida is one of 21 states that adopted “tuition-equity” laws, allowing for in-state tuition for immigrant students without documentation. However, these students still face financial barriers to higher education.

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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