“Defending Gov. Scott's Proposal”
By Gordon Wayne Watts, Special to The Register (submitted concurrently to The Tampa Tribune as a Letter) | Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear Editor:

I take issue with Joe Henderson's claim in today's [Tampa Tribune] column that [Florida] Gov. Rick Scott's announcement today is a 'gimmick' regarding Scott's call for a $10,000 college degree, during Scott's speech at St. Petersburg College. (“Henderson: Scott's degree gimmick won't help education,” Nov. 27)

Even Henderson, himself, admits that “Scott's focus is on the 28 statewide [community] colleges – not the university system.” But is this really so unreasonable? Let's see has actually been done, shall we:

One source reports that college cost only $138/year in the 1956-57 school year: Adjusting for inflation, what cost $138 in 1957 would cost $1,087.01 in 2011, or $4,348.04 for a 4-year degree. Another source reports college cost him only $100/semester: $800 for a 4-year degree in 1955 would cost only $6,626.32 in 2011; sources posted at: www.GordonWatts.com/Higher-Ed-Tuition-Costs.html and www.GordonWayneWatts.com/Higher-Ed-Tuition-Costs.html

America's Higher Ed was the best in the world in the 1950's, and if we could provide a quality degree for 4 or 6 thousand dollars at Universities, why is it so unreasonable to think that community college couldn't do the same—especially in light of how much America's Higher Ed has fallen in world rankings!

However, I admit that Scott can't fix the problem solely at the State level: As I said in a recent letter to The Tampa Tribune (“Beware the debt trap,” Oct. 18, 2009), excess Federal loans result in tuition inflation (Bill Bennett's theory), since college raise tuition to match increased borrowing ability, costing both students (who pay more tuition) and taxpayers (who make/guarantee these loans).

No one listened to me and Bennett, and see where that's got you now: Another bubble!

However, here's something I overlooked in my letter: While similarly unsecured Credit Card loans can obtain bankruptcy (even Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy FOUR times—for huge amounts!), Student Loans are unique in the absence of ALL Standard Consumer Protections: There's not even Truth in Lending, denying borrowers proper notice of their loan terms (which is illegal 'Predatory Lending,' but I don't have enough 'word-count' to address all that in one letter).

When Student Loans could be discharged in bankruptcy, that at least slowed down the 'easy-loans' which, in turn, slowed the bubble, but now that students can almost never get their loans bankrupted, AND have automatic wage garnishment, this has fueled the bubble—and it WILL burst, if not addressed ASAP.

So, I call on Scott to ask Federal Lawmakers to return Consumer Protections to student loans. Big banks got bailed out—and yet can still file for bankruptcy: Aren't students just as important?

Student don't want a 'Free Handout'—just 'fair & equal' treatment, like all other borrowers.

Gordon Wayne Watts

Editor's note: Since submission of this letter to The Tampa Tribune, on Tuesday, 27 November 2012, The Tribune published a follow-up editorial, (“Scott's useful challenge to curtail college costs,” Nov. 30, 2012), in which they seemed to agree with this letter, even citing a few examples of colleges which have accepted Scott's challenge. However, if the Federal funds are not stopped, then colleges/universities in the other 49 states which do price-gouge their students, will be at a competitive advantage if Florida tries to offer college at a fair/affordable price, since they will be receiving far more income via excessive tuition. That is why the State can not go it alone, and must call in for Federal help. Lastly, if Federal Lawmakers 'changed the rules' mid-flight for college students, how do you know you might not be next, with your business, medical, or house loan?"