Board approves university tuition increases

ORLANDO — Tuition at Florida’s public universities will rise another 7 percent in the fall as schools look to maintain course offerings, improve graduation rates and provide financial aid in light of budget reductions and a weak economy.

The Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 11 public universities, voted in favor of the 7 percent differential tuition increase — the highest allowed under a new law — at a meeting Thursday in Orlando. The rise comes on top of an 8 percent statewide increase already ordered by the Legislature, for a total hike of 15 percent.

For most students, Thursday’s vote means an increase of $5.74 per credit hour for undergraduates, or about $172 over the fall and spring semesters. The 8 percent hike approved by lawmakers had increased it $6.56 an hour. Together, they total $12.30.

The increase approved Thursday is projected to raise $23.8 million in tuition, $17.9 million of which will go to improving undergraduate education, according to figures provided by the Board of Governors.

An additional $6 million will go toward need-based scholarships.

In their requests for the increase, universities said the extra revenue would be used to offer more courses, reduce class sizes and increase the percentage of undergraduate students taught by faculty, among other initiatives. Seventy percent of the funds raised through the tuition increase must go toward undergraduate education.

Tico Perez, a board member and chairman of the budget committee, said universities have taken steps to cut expenses and maintain costs, but the tuition increase is needed.

Universities will be required to report back to the Board of Governors, and measurements will be developed to determine how well they are progressing toward those goals, Perez said.

Tuition at Florida’s universities is among the lowest in the nation, and a new law signed June 1 allows schools to seek increases of 15 percent every year until they reach the national average.

At the University of Central Florida, where the Board of Governors meeting took place, 22-year-old Jason Rogers lamented the increase.

“I already have trouble paying for it now,” said Rogers, who is pre-med and expects to be at the university for another three years.