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Friday, March 01, 2024

Like many of you who arrived at UF in the fall of 2008 or before, I’ve noticed a giant increase in the cost of attendance. Though tuition is cited as the reason, rising fees are also to blame for the fast-disappearing refunds from Bright Futures that used to be commonplace.

Even with Prepaid tuition, you might get a few hundred dollars a semester back in your bank account to help with the cost of living. Tuition increases of 15 percent or more per year prompt the question: What is a fair price to attend UF?

According to the UF Office for Student Financial Affairs, the total tuition and fees for a freshman for this school year amounted to $5,700. At a place like Penn State, the total one-year cost for an in-state student is $15,984.

There are two ways to read this difference. The first is to be very grateful that we live in Florida, where most of us get some form of tuition assistance and the total cost of attendance is one-third that of a comparable state university. However, though the administration would prefer us to view it in this lens, one outrageous sticker price does not justify raising the cost for another.

In a fair and functioning free market for higher education, many of the brightest and best students would not go to college at all because they would already have the necessary knowledge to get a job. Those who felt they needed four years of education so they could go into a technical field or those who felt they needed practice with critical thinking and writing skills would go to college.

However, everyone who is reasonably ambitious knows that he or she must go to college to have a chance. Even the famous examples of successful people who didn’t finish college, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg, spent a few semesters there. We as consumers are faced with a product that we must buy, so we go to find the best value for our dollar in the market that exists.

The best value for our education in the state of Florida is unequivocally UF. Though as tuition continues to rise, the value of UF compared to our cheaper counterparts that still offer great merit scholarships will likely pull away some of the best students that would have come here. When UF tuition was $3,000 per year and National Merit Scholars were given tuition plus a $4,000 per year stipend, it was a no-brainer for top students in the state to come to UF. Soon, the top merit scholarships at UF will not even cover all of tuition and fees, and schools such as the University of Central Florida and the University of Alabama continue to offer full scholarships to National Merit finalists. As we continue to raise our price, we will be risking the status of our university as one of the best college values in the Southeast.

Is it fair to charge students $6,000 per year instead of $3,000? It is probably ethical considering the state is cutting budgets like crazy and we all want to maintain program quality at UF.

The problem I have is that UF officials have been granted a power they could previously only dream of: the power to raise tuition to the national average.

UF will always be in Gainesville, which is much cheaper than the much of the South, and the South, in general, is much cheaper than the North. This idea that we should charge national-average tuition is actually a way they can charge much more on a cost of living-adjusted basis.

We must keep UF an affordable place to get a degree, and that means 15-percent tuition increases must stop.

Travis Hornsby is a statistics and economics senior at UF. His column appears on Mondays.

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