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Lawmakers want large tuition increase

Incoming students could end up paying considerably more in tuition this fall.

Under an education bill that will go before the Florida Senate when it reconvenes later this month, USF could charge an extra 30 percent in tuition, as long as rates don’t increase by more than 15 percent from year to year.

As it stands, in-state students – no matter which state university they attend – pay the same amount per credit hour: $73.31, or about $1,100 for a 15-hour semester.

Each year, state lawmakers propose higher tuition rates for the state’s public universities, but the increases are usually only a few percentage points.

This year, lawmakers want to considerably increase tuition at the University of Florida, Florida State University and USF, three of Florida’s largest universities.

“There is the recognition here that the universities have been starved for too long,” State University System Chancellor Mark Rosenberg told the St. Petersburg Times. “There’s a recognition for the fact that we have to move past a one-size-fits-all system.”

Should USF increase tuition by the maximum-allowed 15 percent this fall, new students would be paying $84.30 per credit hour, or about $1,260 for a 15-hour semester.

If rates are raised again the following fall – a 30 percent total increase from current rates – students would pay $95.30, or about $1,430 for a 15-hour semester.

The rates would only affect incoming students, not those already enrolled.

The USF administration has repeatedly complained that funding from the state is one of its biggest problems. Now it’s hoping students can make it up. According to estimates, USF could generate about $1 million in the first year and an extra $20 million by 2010.

The money, Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox said, would directly improve student life.”Any new revenue (from the bill) to USF would be invested directly into improving the quality of undergraduate education and academic support,” he said.

More professors, smaller class sizes and an increased number of class sections offered are among the benefits students will receive with this increase in tuition costs, Wilcox said.

It seems the bill still has a way to go before becoming a reality, however. Gov. Charlie Crist has said he will veto any bill that makes it more difficult to attend college in Florida.

A provision in the bill states the tuition differential can be waived for students who meet eligibility requirements for the Florida Public Student Assistance Grant.

“The last thing we want to do is create economic challenges for students with limited financial needs,” Wilcox said.

The tuition rates for Florida’s public universities are among the lowest in the country, and that hinders USF’s ability to provide a top-notch education, Wilcox said.

Due to the rising cost of education and the state’s inability to keep up, the burden has fallen upon students, Wilcox said.

“$3,500 (in tuition) a year to provide a world-class education at a top-tier research university just doesn’t work,” Wilcox said.