When college tuition was $50

Published 3:34 pm Friday, June 19, 2009

T.K. Wetherell’s sudden retirement/resignation from Florida State University prompted me to realize of how much the cost of education has boomed since my days in the college classroom in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In his resignation comments, Wetherell cited increased burdens and huge workload ahead facing the challenges of massive budget cuts to the university system in general and FSU in particular. It was a job for a younger man, he said.

The institutions like FSU and others in Georgia and all over the nation are facing huge budget cuts that will undermine the heart of these universities.

Email newsletter signup

FSU for example is cutting hundreds of faculty positions and support personnel plus a multitude of degree-granting programs to make up for the loss of millions of dollars no longer forthcoming from the legislature.

Student tuition in college today especially major universities costs thousands of dollars per year when you consider tuition, room and board, books, fees and lots of other incidentals.

Enrolling in Bainbridge College, for example, costs about $800 per semester for 12 college credit hours, considered a full-time student.

Go to one of the state’s major universities and that tuition jumps to about $1,600 for a full-time student.

Enrolling in St. Petersburg Junior College as I did in 1958, my tuition was $50 as a full-time student. For $50, you enrolled in five academic classes, each class awarding you three passing credit hours.

Enrolling at FSU in 1960 was more expensive.

My tuition jumped to $125 per semester as a full-time student taking the same amount of classes. For another $125, you got a dorm room for the semester, and for another $125, you got your choice of several dining halls for your necessary three meals a day.

At the time, I never gave it much thought as to costs of education, probably because there wasn’t much to think about except how to avoid flunking French.

But with Mr. Wetherell leaving FSU, for those of us alumni it gives us pause to ponder the future of one’s alma mater.

T.K. And I go back to 1963 in Daytona Beach. Although I never met him, I knew his dad. His dad was the local Sears store manager, and was extremely active in the Daytona Beach civic events. As a news reporter there for The Orlando Sentinel, I wrote about him many times. While the senior Wetherell was involved in community service, T.K. in 1963 was a senior at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, and star of the football team.

It’s been interesting to watch him become a collegiate athlete at FSU, then a dynamic leader in politics as well as education, with a career in the Florida legislature then president of Tallahassee Community College followed by FSU.

My first encounter with FSU was in 1952, as a junior from St. Petersburg High School. The high school orchestra and chorus went on a mini tour, with stops in Tallahassee and Atlanta, and some others in between. Our night in Tallahassee was spent in Kellum Hall on the FSU campus. The dorm building was sparkling new. The building was way, way, way, way out there on the far, far, far western edge of the campus. I remember thinking, why in the world did they build this dorm so far from the classroom buildings. A student would need to take a bus to get from the dorm to class.

Returning to FSU in 1960, Kellem and its sister, Smith Hall, were now closer to the main campus as additional buildings filled in the gap.

Visit there today, and these two dorms might be considered the center of the lot.

Universities have grown in grand scale during the past 50 years. FSU is out of land, St. Petersburg Junior College has grown from two small buildings into a major educational institution with satellite campuses serving Clearwater, Tarpon Springs and probably other communities as well.

Enroll there today, and it would be remote that you could even purchase a textbook for $50.