TALLAHASSEE -- Myakka City resident Michael Long joined 400 other students, including 50 of his classmates from New College in Sarasota, in a rally Thursday in Tallahassee against more tuition hikes.
“We just want to bring student-driven issues to the platform,” said Long, who is New College’s student body president, chairman of the Florida Student Association, and the student-elected member of the Board of Governors that oversees Florida’s university system.
Long said the rally’s main focus was to ensure legislators know that students are opposed to any additional tuition hikes after seeking tuition increase 60 to 70 percent since 2007. The hikes are a result of university funding being reduced by about 24 percent over the same period, Long said.
“We’re not members of the legislature. It’s not our job as students to find where the money is coming from,” Long said. “But our stance is that we want to maintain the current level of funding for universities.”
Long said the tuition hikes are especially hard on students because paid internships are less plentiful.
He said the Florida Student Association’s other goals include fighting a law that would change the student position on the Board of Governors from an elected post to an appointed one. The group is also lobbying to preserve Bright Futures scholarships, which are slated to be reduced.
Long’s group is lobbying instead for higher requirements and standardized test scores instead of across-the-board cuts to the program.
The group also spent Thursday afternoon visiting legislators’ offices and attending the house Education Committee meeting.
“It was a good education experience,” Long said. “If we’re going to be at the Capitol, we might as well learn as we do so.”
The student rally included student body presidents of all 10 Florida universities, Long said. A similar rally by Florida’s college students is slated for Feb. 6.
Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.