Gov. Rick Scott is really into DIY government cost-cutting, as evidenced this week by his $10,000 degree challenge. So why stop there?
Here are more suggestions for additional do-it-yourself state cuts, where the user does more and the government does less:
The $10 toll-road challenge: You'll be out $12.60 if you drive from Interstate 4 to Fort Lauderdale on Florida's Turnpike. Too high. Seems like we could shave a few bucks off maintenance costs by having motorists stop to pick up litter. What's a little inconvenience in the name of cheaper government?
The $100 restaurant-license challenge: It costs more than $300 for a license to open a new 50-seat restaurant. Let's cut that in half by letting eatery owners police themselves and reduce the expense of health and safety inspections. Hey, if the place is dirty people will just stop going, right? Or learn their lesson with a nasty bout of food poisoning.
If these ideas seem like ridiculous gimmicks that cut right into the heart of the very functions government should be performing — like maintaining our infrastructure and making sure restaurants are safe — that's because they are.
But they are no less absurd than the governor's most recent sound bite on college affordability.
Look closely at how some of the state's colleges (previously known as community colleges) plan to meet the $10,000-mark for a four-year degree. It has very little to do with them offering more for less.
Instead they'll be offering students the option to pay less for doing more.
For example, at Valencia College students may be able to qualify for steep tuition discounts in their fourth year if they meet certain criteria during the first three years, such as attending full time, never repeating a course and not requiring any remedial courses.
In other words, few students would actually qualify. After all, most colleges' bread and butter are students who can't attend full-time because they need to work or care for a family.
In order to qualify for a $10,000 degree, Daytona State College wants students to show up with college credit earned in high school and finish in three years.
In that case, students are actually receiving less for less — a year less instruction and experience on a college campus in exchange for less money. That seems fair, but not some innovative deal the state should be crowing over.
These incentive programs alone aren't bad ideas. They encourage students to move through their course work faster, which helps the colleges and students save money.
But to bill these as a fantastic new way to lower the cost of earning a bachelor's degree is smoke and mirrors.
It would be different if Scott also pledged more money to the colleges so they could lower tuition.
It would certainly be worth a little extra swagger in the governor's cowboy-boot strut if he were vowing to improve higher education by investing in it and lowering costs.
That really would be something for college students to get excited about.
But that isn't what Scott is saying. And the $10,000 doesn't include housing or books, two huge expenses when earning a degree.
Scott says the colleges should just find efficiencies to cut the price of tuition.
That's the other glaring flaw in this publicity stunt. Public colleges are already the most efficient providers of higher education around.
For-profit colleges, private universities and public universities have all increased prices at a far faster rate.
"We're already so efficient, there's not much cost I can take out of the system anymore," said Valencia President Sandy Shugart.
Cutting to the bone is how we end up with DIY.
The state isn't going to make college cheaper on its own. Students have to do it themselves.
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