Letter to the editor: Florida’s public universities offer an excellent return on investment

Marshall Criser III, State University System Chancellor  

Recently, a headline in Florida Business Daily claimed that Florida colleges and universities have a high student loan default rate. That headline does a disservice to students who might be thinking about attending one of Florida’s 12 public universities, which are among the most affordable in the country and give graduates an unparalleled opportunity to achieve their dreams.

The State University System’s student loan default rate is 5.6 percent, 1.9 percent lower than the national average for public universities and 8.9 percent lower than the default rate if you include all of Florida’s higher education sectors together. Our performance in this area is due to the persistence of Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature, and the Board of Governors, who are all committed to making sure that universities are affordable and that graduates are poised for success in the state workforce. 

Consider: Florida’s public universities have the second lowest tuition in the country, with the average cost of a bachelor’s degree at less than $15,000 after financial aid is included. That’s $5,000 less than the average price of a compact car, according to Kelley Blue Book. What do those graduates get in return? A recent graduate can expect to earn $22,400 more per year than a full-time minimum wage worker and to see earnings of $2.5 to $3 million over a lifetime. The State University System is not stopping there. Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature recently expanded Bright Futures and need-based aid programs and have renewed a push to raise four-year graduation rates, which minimizes time spent out of the workforce. Further, Florida’s universities are proactively educating students – before they even select a major -- about the job prospects in the fields they’re interested in, working to connect them with internship and mentorship experiences long before they graduate.

By putting student success front and center, the State University System is able to offer an excellent return on investment. That opinion is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which recently named Florida the best state for higher education for the second year in a row. And it is shared by the hundreds of thousands of alumni who work in medicine, engineering and the dozens of other industries that require a university degree. 

– Marshall Criser III, State University System Chancellor         

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