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Tuition fees raised amidst budget cuts

Florida lawmakers met to cast their final votes for the higher education budget Friday. Lawmakers approved a budget of $66.5 billion for colleges and state universities.

USF will see an estimated 11 percent budget cut this year, down four percent from last year’s 15 percent, said USF spokesman Michael Hoad.

However, when considering potential funding from the Florida Lottery, the federal stimulus package and tuition increases, the 11 percent budget cut could be reduced to one or two percent, he said.

“The funding is only a temporary fix to budget cuts,” Hoad said. “USF needs to consider what will happen in 18-24 months, when the stimulus money runs out.”

According to the Tampa Tribune, Florida’s stimulus dollars allow for $219 million to state universities.

If revenue continues to decline throughout the year, Hoad said a special session could possibly be called to make additional cuts to the budget.

“USF will not make any official decisions until the governor signs the budget,” Hoad said. “We expect to start making serious decisions in the third and fourth week of May.”

Florida lawmakers also approved a bill that allows state universities to raise tuition up to 15 percent a year until it reaches the national average.

Hoad said USF will likely raise tuition costs by eight percent, but the percentage may vary by campus. He said the University estimates that with the tuition increase and new fees, such as the technology fee, a full-time student without scholarships would have to pay approximately $300 more per semester starting in the fall.

Additional reporting by Julia Pappacoda.