Though tuition at Florida’s 11 public universities is among the cheapest in the nation, it has recently begun a steady increase. On Friday, the university system’s Board of Governors met at Orlando’s University of Central Florida to approve a 7-percent tuition hike that will take effect this coming fall.
The increase comes on the heels of an 8-percent increase in base tuition that will also begin in August, which makes the total cost for students 15 percent higher than last year. That percentage is the maximum allowed under Florida state law, and is an effort by Florida’s education legislators to get more money in the wake of an economic recession that led to severe cuts statewide.
According to John Delaney, the president of Jacksonville’s University of North Florida, these increases will likely continue until the national cap is reached.
“The 15-percent increase is allowable until the school reaches a tuition rate that is at the national average,” he says. “We estimate that if a university increased 15 percent a year, every year, it would hit the national average in about 2017 or 2018.”
But what does this mean for Florida’s schools? Delaney says that the additional funds will be well spent: “The money from increasing tuition will go to enhancing undergraduate education. Each university has a slightly different proposal, but essentially it is to hire more faculty and advisors. Again, as it raises different amounts at each university, each will hire more or less depending on the revenue. We will hire about 16 new faculty and a lab tech, as well as a few advisors.”
And though increased tuition usually makes for fewer applicants, Delaney says that UNF started becoming more competitive a while ago. “We actually rolled back enrollment two years ago,” he says. “Due to the budget cuts, we didn’t have money to hire to replace retiring faculty. Since we place a great deal of importance on the efficacy of small classes, we rolled enrollment back about 1,000 students. We still do not plan on adding enrollment even with the new money. This will allow us to improve the support and instruction for our undergraduate students while hiring more faculty, which in turn will make us a better institution.”