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Tuition going up for Florida students

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From Florida News Service: Florida public university students will pay on average an additional $532 in tuition and fees for the upcoming school year that begins in the fall, the university system’s board of governors determined Friday.

The university governing board approved a 15 percent tuition increase for the 11 universities Friday, bringing Florida’s public university tuition more in line with the national average. The Legislature had already approved an 8 percent tuition increase, but the board tacked on an additional 7 percent at the request of the individual universities.

Students will see different tuition and fee increases depending on which university they attend. On the low end, Florida Gulf Coast University students will see a $463 increase in total tuition and fees per year. On the high end, University of South Florida-Polytechnic campus students will see a $991 increase.

The increases were easily approved, but all had at least one dissenting voice. Board member Norman Tripp railed against the university price hikes and voted against each university’s proposed increase during a board committee vote in the morning and then again during the full board of governors’ vote Friday afternoon.

“One of the things we’ve done is we’ve asked the Legislature for the authority to set tuition and that we’d be good stewards of that tuition, and I think we fall short in this situation because I don’t think there has been the honest conversation … that I could defend to parents and children who are going to have to pay this tuition,” said Tripp, who has previously served as the board of trustees chairman at Florida Atlantic University. “So I feel like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t vote for this.”

In particular, the cost increase for University of South Florida-Polytechnic rankled Tripp, who asked if the university had not previously served the students well, given the need for a $991 overall increase in tuition and fees at the Polytechnic campus.

Ralph Wilcox, USF provost, said the increased costs were evidence that the campus, which is still relatively new, is maturing. The campus has previously not provided large-scale student activities because of a smaller student population. Responding to student wishes, the fee increases will come in student activities and services, not athletics and health, he said.

“In return, what our students on the Polytechnic campus will receive in the coming year is a significantly enhanced student activity program,” Wilcox said. “Everything from improvement in counseling centers, (to) recreational activities.”

Florida university costs are still far below the national average. According to the College Board, average published tuition and fees for in-state students at public flagship universities was $8,353 in 2009-2010. In contrast, the University of Florida’s in-state tuition and fees on the College Board survey were pegged at $4,373.

Tico Perez, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, voted for the increases, but cautioned how serious an issue the tuition increases are for students who see the bill. He also noted, however, that Florida’s universities are still relatively cheap.

“Notwithstanding the increases today, we’re still going to be well below the national average in tuition and fees,” he said.

Gallop Franklin, the student representative to the board, voted no to the tuition increases at the University of North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University, saying student leaders at those two institutions had told him that students were opposed to the tuition hikes.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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