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Board says Legislature at fault for tuition hike

The Board of Trustees approved tuition increases for USF on Thursday.

In-state undergraduate students will receive an 8.5 percent tuition increase and out-of-state graduate and medical students will receive a 15.5 percent increase.

USF President Judy Genshaft said tuition increases are a problem across the nation because of state’s struggling with the national economy.

“It’s much lower than most other states in the country,” Genshaft said. “It’s still a bargain to go here.”

The BOT voted unanimously to approve the increases after a discussion via conference call. Board member and student body president Omar Khan said he was concerned about any type of increase in students’ tuition, but in the end voted for the increase.

“I know we have to be fiscally conservative,” Khan said. ” But I feel that this is a steep increase.”

Last year, in-state undergraduate students received a 5 percent increase, while out-of-state undergraduate and in-state graduate students received a 10 percent increase. Out-of-state graduate students received a 20 percent increase last year.

“This is going to be the trend because of the state economy,” Genshaft said. “I am sorry that the state couldn’t fund higher education. We want to build the university the best we can.”

Board members say they had no choice on the matter. After a 12-day special session came to a close last month, the Legislature approved a budget that cut higher education by $40 million and provided no money for the 22,000 new students that will attend Florida’s public universities in 2003-2004.

USF’s share of the cut amounts to about $12 million, $7 million of which comes from the Tampa campus.

“This year is unusual year and the Legislature took a lot of money (out of higher education) because of the class size amendment,” said Dick Beard, chairman of the BOT. “We are going to see these increases over the next seven years. In normal circumstances, I don’t think we would’ve seen what we have seen this year.”

However, state officials say that Florida students still pay less than 25 percent of their education costs, and that the state continues to have one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.

The cost of tuition for one semester to take 15 credit hours for 2002 for in-state undergraduate students was $1,349.85. Now, with the 8.5 percent increase, the same students will pay $1,428.00 this school year. Out-of-state undergraduate students’ tuition will rise from $6,121.80 in 2002 to 6,942.15 in 2003.

Beard said the Bright Future Scholarships are still available for in-state students and pay for some part of tuition no matter what the cost.

“Sixty to 70 percent of our students are on that scholarship and the students who qualify for that scholarship, the increase won’t affect them at all because they are not writing the check,” Beard said.

Other public universities such as Florida State and University of Florida approved an increase in tuition by the state-mandated 8.5 percent and up to 15 percent raise for graduate and out-of-state last week.

Beard said he hopes that USF is not at the point in which it would start capping enrollment like some universities have already done.

“We hope not,” he said. “If the cuts were going to be as drastic as they were talking about earlier, we were definitely considering not accepting any new students,” he said.

USF will take a look at the budget in more detail and how to offset the shortfalls in the next 30 days, Beard said.