Crist signs Fla. tuition increase

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s state universities will be able to increase tuition rates up to 15 percent annually until they reach the national average under a new law Gov. Charlie Crist signed Monday.

Crist also signed laws that will strengthen the financing of a school voucher program, draw down another $400 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment compensation and make human trafficking a state crime.

The governor, though, vetoed a bill that would have delayed a requirement to install fire sprinklers in condominium common areas from 2014 to 2025.

Crist, university officials and the Florida Student Association supported the tuition bill (SB 762), saying rates that now are among the nation’s lowest must go up to improve quality, help pay for need-based scholarships and stop a brain drain of faculty to other states that pay better.

The 8 percent increase will boost tuition for a student taking the average 30 credit hours in a year by $197 for a total of $2,658. At 15 percent, the increase would be $369 for a $2,830 total. The national average is $6,585 — more than twice Florida’s even with a 15 percent increase this year.