The majority of Florida’s university students still face a maximum increase in tuition this fall.
Despite prognostications that a vote by the board of trustees from the University of Florida to lower its tuition would cause their counterparts to follow suit, the state board of governors is getting mostly 15 percent tuition rate increase requests from other state universities.
The Board of Governors is scheduled to decide on the individual hike requests Thursday afternoon.
The board of trustees for Florida State University and Florida A&M University both agreed to seek the maximum allowed -- a 15 percent increase -- prior to Bernie Machen, president of UF, announcing June 7 he would instead ask for a 9 percent increase.
But since the UF decision, trustees from the University of West Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University have voted for or are being asked this week -- prior to going before the Board of Governors -- to gun for the maximum hike in order to avoid layoffs or cutting programs.
Trustees from the University of South Florida have opted for an 11 percent bump.
Florida Gulf Coast University student body president Peter Cuderman told the Naples Daily News that if it comes down to paying 15 percent more for tuition or seeing the quality of education decline, students would opt for the increase.
"But," he added to the News, "at what point do you keep going, and at what point do you stop?"
Dennis Crudele, vice president for finance at FAU, told the Sun-Sentinel the hike is needed to offset the nearly $25 million legislators cut in state funding.
"If we don't get the tuition request, it would result in fewer course selections, a reduction in faculty, and would probably have an impact on our graduation and retention," Crudele told the Sun-Sentinel.
The Boca Raton school is expected to vote Tuesday on closing its lightly-attended Port St. Lucie campus. The closing would save $1.8 million a year.
Each university will get to individually make its case for increasing rates to the Board of Governors this week.
In agreeing to lower the hike, the UF trustees directed staff to find alternative ways to offset the expected $5 million reduction in revenue from the decision.
The UF action sparked State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan to surmise that if the trustees at other schools don’t intend to go for the full increase, the Board of Governors will be hard to convince that the maximum is warranted.
"Even though we have the 45th lowest undergrad (tuition) in the United States, is it sustainable to simply continue to make up (the difference) on the backs of students that we're not getting at this point in our history via the recession through the legislative process?" Brogan said June 11 while at the Capitol for Gov. Rick Scott’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Education.
"If universities are walking into next week's meeting in Orlando simply expecting to get a 15 percent differential increase, they need to think again. And I think they are."
The average annual tuition at state universities is $5,626, while the national average is $8,244. The price tag doesn’t include other fees – from room and board to activity or course fees to books incurred annually by students. And with tuition up to the maximum for the past four years, state officials have started to express concern about the amount of debt recent graduates are face with.
Universities are allowed to seek tuition increases that exceed the base set annually by the Legislature. The combined total can’t exceed 15 percent.
With each school expected to gun for the maximum, no base rate was set this year by the Legislature, which also put 15 percent hikes into the revenue portion of the state budget.
To balance the state budget, legislators used $300 million from university reserves.
Scott’s task force was a response to his veto of the “pre-eminence” bill for the state universities that could have opened tuition to unlimited increases.
The Board of Governors will meet on June 19-21 at Live Oak Center, Ferrell Commons, at the University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando. The tuition vote is scheduled before the full board on Thursday.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.