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Florida universities eye 7 percent tuition increase

June 14, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

TALLAHASSEE (AP) - Trustees at six of Florida's 11 public universities have unanimously agreed to seek 7 percent increases in their in-state undergraduate tuition rates. If approved, they would be on top of an 8 percent tuition increase ordered by the Legislature for the next academic year.

Votes will be held by trustees at the other five schools before the Board of Governors considers the requests at a June 23 meeting in Tampa.

It's shaping up as a replay of last year.

Lawmakers then also raised tuition by 8 percent, and the Board of Governors approved 7 percent differential increases for each of the universities. That raised their tuition rates by a total of 15 percent - the annual limit set by law.

The 8 percent legislatively ordered increase will add $229.50 to the base tuition for 30 credit hours, considered a normal annual course load, which then will total to $3,099.60 per year.

The additional 7 percent would affect the schools differently because some have raised their differential tuition more than others in the past.

On average, though, it would increase the 30 credit hour annual cost by $274.80 for a total of $3,592.20.

The figures do not include fees that differ among the universities. Raising tuition the full 15 percent would still leave Florida as one of the nation's best higher education bargains for in-state undergraduates, but it will still be a hardship for many students and their parents.

"If we're going to pay more, we're going to have to receive more," said Florida Student Association Chairman Gallop Franklin, also student body president at Florida A&M University.

State University System officials say students are getting more. An analysis shows the additional 7 percent approved last year saved or created 947 jobs for faculty members and advisers during the 2010-11 academic year. It also enabled the schools to save or add 4,318 course sections.

The universities, though, wouldn't need more tuition money to save jobs and courses if not for cuts in state funding totaling about 25 percent in recent years.

"This tuition differential doesn't come close to filling 'gaps' in state support," said State University System spokeswoman Kelly Layman.

She also noted the 7 percent increase would raise $110 million across the system, not even enough to offset the loss of $140 million in federal stimulus money the universities received during the current budget year, which ends June 30.

Although the Legislature approved only an 8 percent tuition increase, the state budget it passed assumes the full 15 percent. So, if a university doesn't opt for the additional 7 percent it would be looking at a further spending cut.

Franklin, also the outgoing student member of the Board of Governors, last year voted to approve the differential increase at nine schools but against it for the other two.

He said he generally has supported the increases because students have a voice in the requests because they also have members on the boards of trustees at each campus. And even with the spending cuts, he said the Legislature hasn't reduced funding for universities as much as it has many other state agencies.

"We do get a good deal in reference to undergraduate in-state tuition," Franklin said.

University of Florida Student Body President Ben Meyers defended his vote for the 7 percent increase as the student trustee in a statement published by the campus newspaper, The Independent Florida Alligator.

Meyers wrote that a key factor for him was a state requirement that schools, with limited exceptions, must use 30 percent of the differential funds for need-based scholarships. He also noted the university has a $9 million gap in need-based financial aid.

"These are students who, without this financial aid, would likely be unable to attend our university," Meyers wrote. He added that failing to adopt the increase "would result in a cutting fiasco" that could devalue students' degrees.

Other schools where trustees so far have voted for the increase are Florida A&M, Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of West Florida.

 
 
 

 

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