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Crist agrees to tuition increase

Gov. Charlie Crist agreed Wednesday to drop his threatened veto of a bill that would allow USF, the University of Florida and Florida State University to increase tuition by up to 15 percent annually.

After meeting with 11 university presidents, Crist agreed to allow the tuition differential bill to become law without implicitly saying he would sign – as long as it didn’t affect tuition rates until the 2008-09 school year.

“Though (Crist) had previously called the bill ‘doomed,’ he will indeed allow it to pass into law,” said Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox. “This is the responsible thing to do because it helps us to provide the highest quality education possible.”

The language of the bill allows USF to raise tuition a maximum of 30 percent, with an annual increase of no more than 15 percent. This means incoming students enrolling in the 2008-2009 school year could see their tuition rates raise from the statewide standard of $73.31 a credit hour to about $84.30.

This would raise the cost of a 15-hour semester from its current rate of about $1,100 to about $1,430. The increase would only garner USF about $1 million in its first year of implementation, but could raise an extra $20 million by 2011.

This move comes just weeks after Crist vetoed a 5 percent tuition increase for the entire State University System proposed by the legislature, and days following USF’s announcement it would raise resident graduate tuition by 10 percent.

This veto, coupled with uncertainty as to how a new property tax structure might effect university funding, has USF administrators approaching a new budget cautiously.

The money generated by the tuition differential will help, said Wilcox, but administrators are currently looking for areas to cut costs.

Though no specific programs have been targeted to fill budgetary holes, Wilcox said that administrators are looking to trim back services that would not impact educational delivery or campus safety and security.

Graduate Tuition Increase

This week the Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase of 10 percent for all graduate students.

This means in-state graduate students will pay around $228 per credit hour, up from the current rate of roughly $207. Based on the average graduate course load of 18 credit hours, this means an annual increase of nearly $375.

Also included is a 10 percent increase for in-state medical school students and a 5 percent increase for out-of-state students. The increases reflect USF’s continuing commitment to offering a quality graduate level education consistent with the University’s classification as a Carnegie Tier 1 Research University, Wilcox said.

The increases will be used specifically to improve USF’s graduate programs, but according to Wilcox, money spent on these courses could help undergraduate programs as well.

“We are committed to pumping these funds right back into graduate programs,” Wilcox said. “Think of it as a sort of trickle-down effect. If we use it to increase our library holdings or hire graduate level faculty, this enhances undergraduate education as well.”