[UPDATE] Tuition at Florida Universities to Go Up 15%

By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; Candace Sweat; AP Email
By: Lilly Rockwell, The News Service of Florida; Candace Sweat; AP Email

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 24, 2011 -

For the third year in a row, undergraduate students at Florida universities will pay 15 percent more in tuition.

The governing board for the State University System approved a 7 percent increase in tuition on Thursday. That’s on top of an 8 percent tuition increase approved by the Legislature earlier.

All of the Board of Governors voted for the increase, except Michael Long, the student representative from New College, who chose to vote against the increase for Florida Gulf Coast University and University of North Florida. Long said he was reflecting earlier votes by student body presidents at those schools.

The tuition increases come at a time when financial aid programs, such as the popular Bright Futures scholarship, are being cut, leaving students with bigger tuition bills. Some Board of Governors members are beginning to examine how tuition increases are impacting middle class students who aren’t eligible for need-based aid.

“We are looking at it,” said Tico Perez, a member of the Board of Governors and the chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee. Perez said the additional financial aid given to offset tuition increases is aimed at federal Pell grant recipients, who must meet federal low-income requirements to qualify.

“As tuition continues to increase, as Bright Futures continues to be cut…it is creating more and more of a challenge and we need to take a look at whether or not we broaden access to financial aid,” Perez said.

Universities argue that Florida students pay far less than students in other states for tuition. Florida ranks 48 in the cost of tuition and fees compared to other states, according to the College Board.

Fifteen percent is the maximum amount universities are allowed to increase tuition in a given year under state law.

University presidents spent most of Wednesday pleading their case for tuition increases to the Board of Governors. They said the hikes were needed to offset severe cuts in state funding. If it weren’t for tuition increases, universities would have to fire faculty, increase class sizes, and kill off academic programs and courses.

Some of Florida’s biggest universities – such as Florida State and the University of Florida – are fearful of losing prominent faculty and increasing class sizes because it could hurt their effort to climb in national rankings.

Some university officials are pushing for increases of more than 15 percent, such as University of Florida President Bernie Machen. The idea of the cap was to give universities time to catch up to the national average. But as other universities have also increased tuition, the national average has become a moving target.

There may be no end in sight for tuition increases in Florida. Universities disclosed to the governing board this week that without significant improvement in the economy, 15 percent tuition hikes will continue to be necessary every year. Each university, except for the University of North Florida, projected 15 percent increases the next four years.

Data presented to the Board on Thursday showed it would take at least 10 years to reach the national average assuming universities asked for 15 percent tuition increases each year, and assuming the national average of tuition and fees rose at 7 percent each year, which is the same percentage as the last five years.

“It creates a bit of a challenge to catch up to the national average,” Perez said. But he added that meeting the average is “not the goal” and is simply a “measuring device.”

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UPDATED 6-23 at 11:30pm By Candace Sweat

Students at FSU and FAMU will be paying more for tuition in the fall.
The State Board of Governors approved the increases Thursday. Now students are speaking out.

Johnathan Spooner is a bright futures student. That means a portion of his education expenses are paid for while he attends Florida State University. But he's still feeling the sting of tuition hikes, and feels even more for the students who have to go it alone.

"I'm a little appalled because it's already pretty high and it seems to be going up increasing each year. If they keep raising tuition it's gonna get harder and harder for the students that aren't eligible for financial aid," said Spooner.

The governing board for the State University System approved the seven percent increase. That's on top of an 8 percent tuition increase approved by the Legislature.

Many students are eager to hit the books, but with a seven percent tuition increase, just getting to class is becoming costly.

Take Natalie Ruiz, a freshman who also gets bright futures funding. She says she's concerned that, one day, the grant may not be enough.

"It's horrible. Especially with all the cuts that have been happening with bright futures," said Ruiz.

Here's how the numbers brake down:

A seven percent increase for Famu students equals a total of $21.42 per credit hour. While FSU students will now have to pay $32 per credit hour.

It's the kind of arithmetic Spooner and Ruiz don't look forward to this semester.

Universities told the governing board this week that without significant improvement in the economy, 15 percent tuition hikes will continue to be necessary every year. However, Florida universities still rank 48th in the nation for the cost of tuition.

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Tampa, FL (AP) - The Board of Governors that oversees Florida's 11 public universities is adding a 7 percent tuition increase to an 8 percent raise already ordered by the Legislature.

The board approved the raise Thursday during a meeting at the
University of South Florida. The extra revenue will help replace
reduced funding from the state.

For the 2011-2012 school year students will pay between $21.42
and $32 more per credit hour, depending on which school they
attend. The statewide undergraduate tuition and fees total an
average of $4,886 a year, about $2,700 less than the national
average.

The last time Florida did not raise tuition statewide was the
1995-96 school year.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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