TALLAHASSEE (CBS4/NSF) – If you have a student in a Florida state college or university, or if you’re headed to school this fall, you’ll be paying more for your education. For the third year in a row, undergraduate students at Florida universities will pay 15 percent more in tuition.
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature approved an 8 percent tuition hike. Thursday, the governing board for the State University System almost doubled that, approving a 7 percent increase. Those increases take effect with the next term.
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.
Even with the increases, attending a state school is a relative bargain when compared to other states, according to Universities who 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 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.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.