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Local parents react to President Obama's college ratings plan

7:31 PM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- President Obama put colleges on notice Thursday as he announced his college ratings plan that will measure colleges based on quality, value, accessibility to minorities and disadvantaged kids, graduation rates and graduation earnings. The plan would also tie financial aid to the ratings. 

The president hopes to have the college rating system ready by 2015 but tying financial aid to the ratings system requires Congress' approval and that isn't expected until 2018.

While the president puts his plan in place, families are left with the very real problem of paying for college. 

It's been a tug of war between state legislators and colleges while funding has dropped about 40% since 2007. During that same time, legislators have allowed tuition to increase as much as 15% each year keeping the college dream just that -- a dream for some students and parents.

College seems like a long way off for Gabriella who's a mother of a one-year-old and four-year-old girls, but she says it weighs heavily on her mind.

"When two people who don't have outrageous jobs and don't make a whole lot of money, it does cause stress," she says.

When both Gabriella's daughters are 18 years old the average cost for tuition to a four-year public college based on a 6% annual increase, according to the College Board's annual survey will be $283,868 for her one-year-old and $238.341 for her four-year-old daughter.  A private university would cost about twice as much.

"Kind of makes my knees week -- definitely," she says.

Florida offers one of the lowest in-state tuition rates in the country ranking 45 last year about 30 percent below the national average. Even so, Gabriella worries college will be out reach. 

She supports the President's plan of ranking colleges based on affordability, value and accessibility to minorities and disadvantaged kids, plus tying performance to federal aid.

"That would be fair. It shouldn't just be reserved for the rich," says Gabriella.

"It's definitely scary. The cost of college is astronomical," says Steve Grey. 

Grey has set up a 529 savings plan for this two-year-old daughter Rachel and a baby girl due any day. 

"My wife and I were both fortunate enough to escape college debt-free and we'd like both daughters do that as well," he says.

Since 2007, the legislature has allowed the state and universities to raise tuition up to 15% to catch up to the national average but the rise in Florida's college tuition has out priced the Florida Prepaid Plan for some families.

A four-year tuition plan for a newborn is nearly $332 a month or a lump sum of $53,729 -- more than three times higher than six years ago.

Gabriella says, "I think everybody should have a chance to educate themselves and further their lives."

This national push to make college more affordable and accessible led to Governor Scott veto a 3% tuition increase this year. Scott also challenged colleges to create a $10,000 Bachelor's Degree program. There is also the opportunity for students to sign up for dual enrollment which allows them to take college courses while in high school -- this way the class is free.

Just this past May, a junior at Drexel University released his app, called Scholly, that's designed to help students find scholarships by using eight specific parameters that filter listings down to ones they are eligible for. Students are also encouraged to meet with their guidance counselors who can help them find some hard to find scholarships.

Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on Twitter @IzzyMascarenas

Isabel Mascarenas

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