Tuition to Increase at Florida Universities
Around the State
All of Florida’s universities will seek to raise tuition for undergraduate students, who will see a total increase of 15 percent next year – the maximum allowed by law.
Universities are technically seeking to raise tuition by only 7 percent, but that’s on top of the 8 percent increase the Legislature ordered. Under a state law passed four years ago, the Legislature can increase tuition and universities are able to tack on their own increases, known as tuition differentials, but the total tuition hike can’t exceed 15 percent.
Although only six out of the 11 state universities have officially sought the extra 7 percent tuition increase, documents filed with the State University System board of governors show they all plan to push for the full 7 percent. The board of governors will decide next week whether to approve the tuition hike.
If the board approves the 7 percent increase, on average, a student would pay $3,840.47 in tuition for 30 credit hours next year, up from the $3,339.56 average for 30 hours last year. That does not include fees, which can tack on several thousand dollars to a student’s total bill.
For instance, total tuition and fees for next year’s Florida State University students could run $5,237.80 for the year.
If the past is any indication, the board is likely to approve the 7 percent increase. For the past two years, universities and lawmakers have approved tuition increases that, when combined, have reached the full 15 percent, with approval from the board of governors.
Plagued by dwindling dollars from the state and increasing enrollment numbers, Florida universities have not been shy about their pleas for higher tuition. University officials say Florida in-state tuition is ranked 48 in the nation and have pledged to strive to catch up to the national average of $7,605 for tuition and fees this past school year.
Florida State University, one of the largest public universities in the state, voted to raise its tuition as “the only way to maintain the academic and support programs serving our students in the face of additional reductions in state funding,” said Bob Bradley, the interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at FSU.
Many universities have seen substantial drops in the amount of money coming from the state.
The University of Florida, for instance, has seen a drop of over $150 million in the last three years in state dollars, while FSU has lost $100 million in state funding over the last four years.
In total, universities have lost about 30 percent in state funding over the past four years, according to State University System spokeswoman Kelly Layman.
Meanwhile, enrollment has increased at a steady clip of 3 percent each year. This year, attendance at state university system schools was 321,503. That was a jump of more than 20,000 students from the year before.
Universities are required to spend the tuition differential money on undergraduate education and a certain percentage on needs-based financial aid. For instance, 906 faculty members were hired or retained thanks to the tuition differential dollars from last year. More than 4,300 classes were added or saved.
Though university officials have pushed for years for even bigger tuition increases, as much as 30 percent, others are concerned that tuition increases are coming at a time when student financial aid programs are also suffering.
In Florida, the popular Bright Futures scholarship program will cut awards next year by 20 percent.
“What we are seeing is an increase in the demand for higher education and at the same time we are seeing states like Florida not investing as much,” said Haley Chitty, a spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “With public colleges and universities not receiving as much state funds, a lot of them have to raise their prices, and unfortunately that means parents and students end up carrying a greater cost.”
Universities, whose resources are spread thin, are turning to students to help pick up the tab that the state government used to pay, Chitty said. The middle class is particularly vulnerable because they are sometimes not eligible for needs-based aid, which has been protected in Florida from the most severe cuts.
But Layman said tuition increases are needed to help universities maintain quality and retain faculty.
Without tuition increases, universities would have to slash their budgets severely, resulting in the loss of important faculty and a reduction in courses. The graduation rate of students would slide as fewer students are able to take required classes.
“We don’t want to slip from all of the progress we have made,” Layman said. “We want to stay competitive, not only with graduation rates, but the quality of all of the systems’ academic programs.”