By: Merissa Lynn, FOX 13 News
TAMPA (FOX 13) - The bills are stacking up as tuition costs surge.
"It sucks," said USF senior William Lindsey. "There's not much we can do it about it, at least for now."
Meanwhile, state Senate President Joe Negron says Florida universities are being shortchanged. Their counterparts at the eight Ivy League schools get billions from taxpayers to do things like asking people if they can smell asparagus pee. That was a real Harvard University study, and it cost taxpayers $3 million.
In another instance, Dartmouth College received taxpayer money to make a video game about the recession in which players try to fire people as fast as they can.
"That seems insane that we're spending money on things like that, when there are so many other issues we could be tackling," said USF freshman Kyle Larson.
It could be spent on restoring Florida's Bright Futures scholarship money, and helping students like Lindsey who struggle to pay for class.
"Yes, I'm a bartender," said Lindsey. "I work nights until like 2 or 3 in the morning to help me pay for school."
Here in Florida, tuition at public universities has gone up almost $2,500 since 2008. Students pay an average of more than $6,000 for tuition. It is below the national average, but it's still a bitter pill to swallow for students like Lindsey, who, besides paying for class, are also paying taxes to subsidize America's Ivy League schools.
According to research from tax watchdog Open the Books, Ivy League schools received $30 billion in taxpayer assistance from 2010 to 2014. Over the course of a four-year degree, that comes out to around $102,000 per student annually.
Research by the Nexus Research and Policy Center say public universities only get a fraction of that: About $15,000 per student.
"I have a friend who's also doing a double major and he has like a job or two," said Larson. "It's hard for them to even focus on their studies. I also have friends who go to those upper schools and they're not working. So, it does kind of show that point."
During that same time period, Open the Books research shows Ivy League schools also received $117 billion in endowment funds. That's enough to provide free tuition for every student.
"So what is the overriding public purpose for working- and middle-class taxpayers to continue to fund education institutions, like our Ivy League, the prestigious universities, that actually have no need for taxpayer help?" wondered Adam Andrzejewski of Open the Books who helped conduct this research.
Remember that video game about the recession? Taxpayers doled out $137,000 to Dartmouth College for that. This, while some researchers at public universities here in Florida don't get a dime.
"A lot of the people that are doing research here, they have to apply for grants and sometimes they don't even get them," said USF sophomore Aleah Ataman.
Columbia University received $5.7 million to fund a computer game called "Future Coast." Players listen to voicemails from the future that warn them about climate change.
Meanwhile, here in real time, students like William Lindsay put off sleep to study.
"Having to stay up for long hours doing homework and then having to go to work and then having to finish it for the next day gets to be very strenuous."
He's working and paying for himself -- and other students too.