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Monday, June 24, 2024

Tuition, fair representation top student agenda in capitol

<p>Florida Student Association chairman Michael Long, of New College of Florida, speaks to a crowd of students at the annual Rally in Tally.</p>

Florida Student Association chairman Michael Long, of New College of Florida, speaks to a crowd of students at the annual Rally in Tally.

TALLAHASSEE -- About 200 university students from around the state gathered on the steps of the Historic Capitol Museum on Thursday for the Florida Student Association's annual Rally in Tally.

FSA chairman Michael Long, a New College of Florida sophomore, voiced the concerns of the 300,000 students he represents, including tuition increases and the method of student governor appointment to the Board of Governors.

In the last four years, Long said, tuition has increased by 60 percent while state appropriations for higher education fell by 24 percent.

Another concern for students was changes to Bright Futures.

The House introduced a proposal Tuesday that would change requirements to renew Bright Futures. The GPA required for renewal of the highest award would increase by .25 next school year, from 3.00 to 3.25. The requirement for the second-highest award would increase by the same amount, from 2.75 to 3.00. The bill also shortens the amount of time students have to start receiving Bright Futures funds, shortening the window from three years after graduation to two.

"As students, we're not naive," he said. "We know we're in a recession. We know times are tough."

However, he said, the state needs to continue to make investment in its students.

Long said if tuition must be increased, it should be increased gradually. He suggested state appropriations for higher education be maintained, not reduced.

FSA members had planned to attend the Senate's budget subcommittee on higher education appropriations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute.

Rather than sit in on other committee meetings following the rally, Long said he spoke with some of the representatives who support FSA's platforms.

"I think they're starting to [listen]," Long said. "I think the legislature is more of a complex, living organism than anything else."

Student Government external affairs Director Billy Vranish came to Tallahassee with a group of 13 UF students.

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Vranish said tuition increases shouldn't just cover budget shortfalls, but also manifest in improvements for students.

"If tuition goes up, we better see results," he said.

After the rally, the UF group met with four representatives to discuss tuition increases and Bright Futures requirements.

Of the three rallies Vranish has has attended, he said, "This has been one of the most productive I've been on."

Richard Yost, UF chemistry professor and Board of Governors faculty member, said he supports FSA's stance on tuition increases and on State University System student body presidents electing the Board of Governors' student governor.

If the legislature took that power away, Yost said, they could do the same for the process in which the faculty representative is chosen.

"I think it's really a matter of principle," he said.

UF political science senior Cassia Laham, 22, went to Tallahassee with the Florida Alliance for Student Action.

She said she was upset the rally wasn't as intense as it could've been.

"I drove two hours for a rally and all I got was a press conference," she said.

Florida Student Association chairman Michael Long, of New College of Florida, speaks to a crowd of students at the annual Rally in Tally.

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