News Column

Florida Considers Raising College Tuition Rates

April 30, 2013

Budget leaders in the Florida House and Senate have agreed to raise tuition for public colleges and universities by 3 percent next school year. They also agreed to boost the amount students would receive through the state's popular Bright Futures scholarship program by 3 percent.

Still, university students -- including Bright Futures recipients -- could end up paying more than 3 percent more for their classes next school year.

And it's still unclear if Gov. Rick Scott will go along with the proposed hike.

Here's the lowdown:

How much more Bright Futures money would I get?

That depends on the type of Bright Futures scholarship you have and the institution you attend. Today, recipients of the Florida Medallion Scholars award -- the most popular of the four merit-based scholarships -- get $75 per credit hour for every semester they attend a university. That would increase 3 percent to $77 per credit hour.

A university student taking 30 credit hours would receive $2,310 through the Florida Medallion scholarship, or $60 more than this year.

Is that enough to cover the 3 percent tuition increase?

Base university tuition averages $103 per credit hour. A student taking 30 credit hours would pay about $93 more in tuition.

Would tuition increase 3 percent for all students?

Three percent is the maximum amount that community colleges and state universities can raise their base undergraduate tuition. Some community colleges might adopt a smaller increase -- or no increase. Universities, on the other hand, can still tack on an additional increase.

The Board of Governors, which oversees public universities, can raise the so-called "differential tuition" so that the increase to university tuition totals as much as 15 percent per year.

Will local community colleges raise tuition?

Last year, Valencia and Seminole State colleges opted to freeze tuition for the current school year. Some Valencia trustees have said they would not support an increase for next year. President Sandy Shugart has said he hopes to recommend no increase if the Legislature does not cut the school's funding, said trustee Lew Oliver.

"I have personally been lobbying hard for Valencia and the whole college system, and it appears as of this snapshot moment in time that we are OK legislatively," Oliver said Monday. "If that holds up, I believe we will be able to stretch one more year with a zero tuition increase."

Seminole State trustees will meet May 20 to discuss tuition and budget issues.

What about UCF?

The school's board of trustees has not decided whether to seek a larger increase for next school year. But UCF and some other public universities have raised tuition 15 percent a year for the past several years. Universities that want to exceed the Legislature-approved tuition amount will make requests to the Board of Governors in June.

UCF spokesman Grant Heston said the school will not consider a possible hike in differential tuition until the state budget is finalized.

When will that happen?

The full House and the full Senate will vote on the state's budget proposal, which includes changes to tuition and Bright Futures, as early as Thursday or Friday. Afterward, though, Gov. Rick Scott has to sign off on the plan.

Will the governor approve this?

That's not clear, although Scott has spoken out against tuition increases. On Monday, Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, repeated his position. "Governor Scott is against any increase in tuition," she said. "We are looking at the language now. But, as you know, we have been consistently against increasing tuition. It hurts families."



Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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