Sen. Rick Scott reintroduces federal bill to rein in university tuition, debt

by | Dec 1, 2023



  • Sen. Rick Scott re-introduced the COLLEGE Act on Thursday, aimed at addressing rising tuition costs and student debt by requiring universities with endowments over $1 billion to contribute a portion of tuition costs for full-time students. 
  • The contribution scale varies based on the endowment size, with higher percentages for larger endowments.
  • The bill also mandates universities to report key metrics to the Secretary of Education, such as graduation rates, median wages of graduates, and average student loan debt, to enhance accountability and monitor post-graduation success.

Sen. Rick Scott reintroduced the Changing Our Learning, Loans, Endowments, and Graduation Expectations (COLLEGE) Act this week, a legislative proposal targeting issues relating to tuition costs and student debt in higher education.

The bill would, if adopted, impose financial responsibility on universities with large endowments, particularly those participating in federal financial aid programs. Under the COLLEGE Act, institutions with endowments exceeding $1 billion would be required to contribute a percentage of tuition costs for each full-time student.

Individual university contributions are scaled according to the size of the endowment under the bill: 25 percent for those between $1 billion and $5 billion, 50 percent for $5 billion to $10 billion, and 75 percent for endowments over $10 billion.

“Right now, universities are raking in BILLIONS from federal taxpayers while sitting on massive endowments. That is unacceptable. For far too long, state and federal leaders have taken a misguided and failed approach to managing public institutions of higher education,” said Scott. “If we want real results that improve student performance, boost post-graduation job placement, and keep tuition affordable, we need to do the hard work of actually holding colleges and universities responsible for the outcomes of their students and accountable to the American taxpayer.”

According to data presented by Scott’s press team, tuition at both private and public universities has increased by 300 to 500 percent in recent years.

The bill would also require universities to report various metrics to the Secretary of Education, including the institution’s four-year graduation rate, median wages of graduates, and the average total student loan debt in order to better track and monitor student success post-graduation.

In June, the State University System Board of Governors (BOG) halted plans to discuss an increase in tuition costs for out-of-state students. In a letter to BOG Chair Brian Lamb, the Presidents of all 12 member schools citeds rising enrollment demands and market conditions as the rationale behind the request, which would see tuition costs spike by as much as 15 percent for out-of-state students.

“Upon further examination, it was determined there would need to be some additional work and time spent on this before we bring it up as a committee item,” said Vice Char Eric Silagy.

A secondary request that was also postponed sought that each university’s Board of Trustees be granted the authority to determine proprietary tuition models based on their individual markets, competitive environments, and strategic plans.

Different universities within the State University System charge varying amounts for the out-of-state fee per credit hour. The last fee increase occurred in 2012, though only two universities raised their fees, with some universities not increasing out-of-state fees since 2004.

For undergraduate students, the University of South Florida (USF) has the lowest out-of-state fee per credit hour at $346.50, while the University of Florida has the highest at $707.21. USF also has the lowest fee for graduate students at $424.52, while Florida Gulf Coast University has the highest at $883.13.

In October, it was determined that three Florida schools — the University of Florida (UF), Florida State University (FSU), and the University of South Florida (USF) — were named among the most affordable schools in the country.

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