Florida's cheapest colleges aren't feeling so affordable to many students any more.
Annual tuition and fees at state colleges, also called community colleges, have increased over the past five years from about $2,000 to about $3,000 for full-time students. At the same time, there have been cuts in financial aid programs such as Florida's Bright Futures scholarships and the federal government's Pell Grant for summer school.
The situation has gotten so bad that community college presidents made the unusual move last week of asking state legislators not to raise tuition this fall, even as funding cuts have left them with larger classes and fewer full-time faculty. Despite that, the Legislature is still considering proposals that would raise tuition from 3 to 8 percent. Tuition at state universities has been rising even faster – 15 percent a year – bringing tuition and fees up to about $5,500.
Anna Gallagher, 21, of Boynton Beach, said she's worked two jobs to help pay for classes at Palm Beach State College, but couldn't always keep up with rising tuition and high textbook prices. "One time I couldn't afford a textbook, so I decided to share with a friend, and I got a B instead of an A," she said. "It was the only class I got a B in, because I didn't buy the textbook."
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