Guest Blogger James Chan

Guest Blog: Paying It Forward in Florida


Guest Blogger James Chan

On July 1, federal student loan rates doubled from 3.2 percent to 6.4 percent due to gridlock in Washington. The very same day, the Oregon state legislature unanimously passed a bill that would provide free tuition to students attending a public state college or university.
Students would attend college without being saddled with tuition bills. In exchange, they would begin paying back the state after becoming employed.

The bill directs higher education leaders to examine and implement a Pay It Forward pilot program and a tuition freeze. Oregon’s bold plan has prompted other states like Washington, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to consider adopting their own model of the Pay It Forward plan.

As a child of immigrants and the first in my family to earn a college degree, the opportunity to work toward a post-secondary degree was vital to achieving my American dream. I graduated debt-free thanks to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, various institutional scholarships, and federal and state grants. But most of my peers aren’t so fortunate. Recent changes to the Bright Futures Program have made it harder for those from low and middle-income families to afford our state’s ever-rising tuition rates.

Florida needs to adopt its own model of Pay It Forward.

Personal experience has proven to me that education is the best vehicle to escape the poverty cycle. That is why I fully believe in the Pay It Forward model. It provides everyone – regardless of family income – access to higher education to better their lives. This is not a handout, as some critics call it. Rather, students earn their degrees tuition-free while they’re in school, and when they are gainfully employed, they pay back up to 3 percent of their annual adjusted gross income for approximately 25 years into a state fund that would allow future students to earn a college degree.

Free tuition should not be a partisan issue. An educated population translates to better jobs, and thus, a better economy. Everyone wins. As one of the largest and most diverse states, we need to capitalize on our diversity and provide access to higher education for all students – regardless of their socioeconomic status – in order to bring our talent to fruition.

Critics of such a dynamic plan may argue that the start-up costs may be too high or that such a program would not cover room and board, considered the largest cost driver of higher education. That’s disappointing. The costs of higher education have long been a public policy problem, but nobody has come up with an innovative way to address the issue. Yet, when the college students of Oregon took the initiative to design a creative solution, opponents criticized the plan. As a public policy graduate student, I recognize that no policy program is perfect. However, it is more important to address those flaws rather than complain about it without providing alternative solutions.

Furthermore, critics are missing the larger vision of the Pay It Forward plan. The goal is to provide all students access to higher education. The plan isn’t to subsidize all education-related costs. If we keep the status quo, only the richest families will be able to send their children to college. With the Pay It Forward plan, families of all incomes will be able to afford tuition. Therefore, those who can’t afford to move hours away to a higher educational institution can still earn their degrees at institutions much closer to home.

I am always researching what other states are doing. Time after time, I’m disappointed that Florida isn’t the trendsetter in proposing such bold, innovative programs and policies. Maybe if we truly invested in education in this state, our students would be equipped with the tools to think critically to solve pressing problems, just as the Oregon students did. That’s not to say Floridians are lost. I am a rare case – the poster child for how empowering Florida’s students can come full circle.

The investment that the state, the University of Florida, and the Florida Next Foundation made in my career has motivated me to pay it forward for future Florida students. Florida will only succeed if all Floridians succeed.

James Chan is a second year Master of Public Policy student at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Research Director at FloridaNEXT this summer.

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Florida: The Entrepreneurial State

The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida is 30 percent more entrepreneurial than the nation as a whole, and our entrepreneurs exhibit a lower than average fear of failure:

By Nancy Dahlberg
Miami Herald

We’re about 30 percent more entrepreneurial than the nation as a whole. Our state’s entrepreneurship community skews more male and a little older. We’re less afraid of risk, and we’re more likely to take our business global.

That’s what Florida looks like, according to findings in the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor U.S. Report, issued recently by Babsoentrepreneur-rich-ubj 600n College and Baruch College.

Donna J. Kelley, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson and one of the report’s lead authors, said both positives and negatives can be drawn from the findings. A big positive: Florida is more globally focused than the nation as a whole. Nearly 19 percent of Florida entrepreneurs in 2012 reported that more than one-fourth of their customers come from outside the country, while the national average is 12.4 percent.

While the rate of early stage entrepreneurial activity is high — Florida’s total entrepreneurial activity rate (17 percent) exceeds the national rate (nearly 13 percent) — more of Florida’s entrepreneurs say they are in business out of necessity, rather than solely for the opportunity, Kelley said. Florida’s rate of necessity entrepreneurship is 26 percent, compared with the national rate of 21 percent and much lower rates in some parts of the country. Higher rates of necessity entrepreneurship can typically result in more very small companies with less growth potential, she said.

Here are a few more findings:

• Florida men are more than twice as likely to engage in entrepreneurial activity than women are, compared with a 10-7 ratio found nationally. Also, among both genders, much more of Florida’s entrepreneurial activity falls into the 35-54 age group than into the 18-34 or 55-and-over age groups.

• The state is distinguished by its positive assessment of capabilities (64 percent) compared with the national average (56 percent).

• Florida entrepreneurs have a lower-than-average fear of failure (26 percent) compared with the national average (32 percent).

“Given low median household income levels and stagnating GDP, entrepreneurship can contribute to the Florida economy in many ways. Previous efforts regarding taxes and promoting entrepreneurship may go a long way to make use of the growing population, but more specific programs aimed at youth and women, as well as growth businesses, might benefit the state,” the report said.

Nationally, the report found, the U.S. entrepreneurial activity rate of nearly 13 percent in 2012 was an all-time high since the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor first began tracking entrepreneurship rates in 1999. And it was up substantially from 7 percent in 2009. The entrepreneurial activity rate measures those who have recently started businesses or are on the verge of doing so.

“Despite a sluggish economy, 2012 was marked by U.S. entrepreneurs reporting greater optimism and confidence in their abilities to start new businesses,” said Kelley. “Nearly 13 percent of the U.S. adult population was engaged in entrepreneurship, with the vast majority starting businesses to pursue an opportunity rather than out of necessity. On the downside, Americans closing businesses were twice as likely as those in other innovation-driven economies to cite difficulties financing their ventures.”


Happy Independence Day

flagHappy Fourth of July to our entrepreneurial friends!

Here are some interesting business numbers surrounding the Fourth of July from the U.S. Census bureau:

– $109.8 billion
Dollar value of trade last year between the United States and the United Kingdom, making the British, our adversary in 1776, our sixth-leading trading partner today.

– $3.8 million
In 2012, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($3.6 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.

– $218.2 million
The value of fireworks imported from China in 2012, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($227.3 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $11.7 million in 2012, with Israel purchasing more than any other country ($2.5 million).

And the answer to your trivia question:

– $614,115
Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2012. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $188,824 worth.


Entrepreneurship Now A Degree

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Seminole State College will introduce a new degree in August that it says is the first of its kind in the state.

Seminole State will be the first public college in Florida to offer an associate degree in entrepreneurship and small business management, the school announced this week.

The program is designed to teach students how to, among other things, write business plans and identify business opportunities. Classes will be offered at the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus and also online.

“We want to help individuals to turn their ideas into something real,” Hugh Moore, associate dean of the Center for Business, Legal and Entrepreneurship, said in a prepared statement. “The goal of the program is to give students the tools to start and maintain a business and create jobs for themselves and the community.”