The University of Central Florida already has the second largest enrollment of any college in the country, but its president thinks there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, UCF President John Hitt was interviewed for about 40 minutes by UCF spokesman Grant Heston on Wednesday.
The event was held in front of a packed ballroom in the Student Union. Students, faculty, and administrators were all present for the State of the University address.
In his speech, Hitt touched on a number of topics, ranging from reducing student loan debt to creating a vibrant downtown Orlando campus for the university. He discussed how legislators and taxpayers are less willing to fund higher education, as well as how schools are no longer able to substantially increase tuition costs.
“We’ve got to be mindful of how we do things and how we can still achieve high quality while containing costs,” the president said.
One of his primary focuses was his mission to make education affordable for people from diverse economic backgrounds, which he claims is one of his greatest worries.
“We’ve got a chance to make a real dent there,” Hitt said. “That will alleviate my sleeplessness.”
The average college graduate in 2015 will have student loans totaling $35,000, and the university is attempting to balance university growth and development with lowered tuition costs.
According to KnightNews.com, some students think that Hitt’s focus on student loan debt was all a crock of “poo emoji.” They held up signs with the popular smartphone symbol while chanting, “Sign the pledge! Sign the pledge! Hey! Hey! Hey!”
The pledge they’re referring to is a program for school employees that would forgive their student loans through a federal program called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
“This pledge is at no cost to UCF,” protester Nicole Ham said. “It’s just something they can sign and they’re just held accountable to letting their employees know.”
Shortly prior to the protest, Hitt spoke briefly about debt concerns among current students and graduates.
“I would encourage students to really be thoughtful and careful how they spend on rent and other expenses that are not directly related to their education.”
The protesters were briefly removed from the room, but were allowed to stand in the back of the room as they continued to hold their signs for the remainder of the speech.