Published: Jun 24, 2011 2:06 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 24, 2011 2:06 PM EDT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The Board of Governors that oversees Florida's 11 public universities approved Thursday to add a 7 percent tuition increase to an 8 percent raise already ordered by the Legislature.

The board approved the 15 percent raise during a meeting at the University of South Florida. The increase was expected, having been requested by the trustees of each school. The extra revenue will help replace reduced funding from the state.

For the 2011-12 school year students will pay between $21.42 and $32 more per credit hour, depending on which school they attend. The 8 percent increase ordered by the Legislature will add $229.50 to the base tuition for 30 credit hours, considered a normal annual course load, which then will total to $3,099.60 per year. The additional 7 percent would affect the schools differently because some have previously raised their differential tuition more than others.

On average, though, it would increase the 30 credit hour annual cost by $274.80 for a total of $3,592.20. The figures do not include fees that differ among the universities. This year, Florida's undergraduate tuition and fees totaled an average of $4,886, compared to a national average of $7,605. The highest state charge is in Vermont, at about $12,500.

Tico Perez, chairman of the board's Budget and Finance Committee, emphasized that Florida's universities still rank 48th in the nation in undergraduate tuition and fees, ahead of only Louisiana and Wyoming. Perez also pointed out that the last time Florida did not raise tuition was 1995-96. The coming year will be the third consecutive 15 percent increase. In 2008-09, the increase was 14 percent.

Even at this pace, Perez said, it would take a decade for Florida's tuition prices to reach the national average because other states' costs have risen an average of 7 percent each of the last five years.

"It's not about what we charge, it's about what we provide," Perez said. "The goal is to serve the students the best we can. The tuition raise is a necessary evil."

He also noted that the Legislature has treated the state university system well in a difficult economic climate. "They understand that the universities can help with the economic development of the whole state," and that the added tuition money is used to retain faculty and course offerings, saving 906 jobs, for example, in the current academic year.

The tuition hikes were voted on for each of the 11 schools in the system, and approval was unanimous with two exceptions. Michael Long, a student government leader at New College and the student representative on the board, voted against the increase on behalf of the University of North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University, "because the student body presidents of those schools voted against it and I represent them."

During the board meeting, Long spoke briefly. "I encourage the presidents of our universities to find alternatives and be more creative and innovative, because this is very tough for us to take." He suggested that ways be found to increase available financial aid for students.

"My concern is we are eroding the abilities of the middle class," board member Norman Tripp said.

"None of us are enjoying this process," Perez agreed.

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