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Adjunct Professors Launch Florida #FreeCollegeNow Tour

Organizers of the #FreeCollegeNow bus tour say Floridians have a combined total of almost $80 billion in student loan debt. (Pixabay)
Organizers of the #FreeCollegeNow bus tour say Floridians have a combined total of almost $80 billion in student loan debt. (Pixabay)
July 27, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Adjunct or part-time professors from multiple states stop in Tampa today on their "#FreeCollegeNow" bus tour.

The group is traveling through Florida cities asking voters to support political candidates who favor tuition-free college and student loan forgiveness. Organizers say the higher education system is broken, in Florida and across the nation, leaving too many people in debt.

Ryan Christopher Rilea, an adjunct professor from Central Florida, says he works four part-time jobs; his college debt is twice his yearly income and he doesn't receive benefits. He says his situation is far from unique.

"We need to address and recognize we have a student loan debt crisis in our society,” says Rilea. “We would like to see some of those debts reduced or to have some sort of relief. And I think we need at least a $15 minimum wage and union rights for all campus employees, absolutely."

Tuition-free college has been a subject of national debate, garnering support mostly from Democrats, while Republicans have pushed legislation that would cut the amount of student financial aid to save federal dollars. Tennessee was among the first states to offer free college tuition.

Rilea says Florida's cuts to higher education and tuition increases in the past decade are leaving too many people living in or near poverty – both students and their instructors.

"When I'm talking and engaging with my students, we find that their situation is very similar, they're having to absorb lots of debt. The book costs, textbook costs are exorbitant,”says Rilea. “Almost, at least, $120 per class you take, on top of everything."

Florida adjunct faculty members and other low-wage workers invited their peers from other states to join them on this nine-city bus tour. It runs through Aug. 2, with stops in Gainesville, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Sarasota and more.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL