Fall tuition at UF could increase by as much as 15 percent if a bill unanimously approved by a Florida State Legislature committee passes.
The bill, approved Wednesday by the Senate Higher Education Committee, would allow state universities to charge a supplemental tuition fee, which would not be covered by the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, in addition to the regular tuition cost.
The bill would allow the Board of Trustees, UF's highest governing body, to increase tuition by as much as 15 percent each year until UF's tuition matched that of the national average, which will be determined by a mandatory conference.
UF spokesman Steve Orlando said UF, which has one of the lowest state university tuitions, is absolutely in support of the bill.
"If students want a degree that actually means something when they graduate then we have no choice but to raise tuition," he said.
If the bill were to pass during the spring legislation session, it would be enacted as of July 1, 2009, and state universities could begin imposing the fee as early as fall.
Orlando said he believes UF will implement the increase this fall if possible, and it is likely the increase will be the full 15 percent because of UF's current budget situation.
The tuition increase would only affect those students who enrolled after July 1, 2007.
For a full-time, in-state freshman taking 15 credit hours, a 15 percent increase would raise tuition from $1,893.75 to $2,177.85.
The bill would mandate that 70 percent of the revenue generated from the increase go toward undergraduate education, including decreasing the student-faculty ratio, increasing salaries for outstanding faculty members and increasing course offerings.
The remaining 30 percent would go toward need-based financial aid.
If enacted, this would be the second state-approved tuition increase in two years. Last spring, the legislature approved a 5 percent increase.
Orlando said UF is cognizant of the financial difficulties facing students now; however, he said even if students with full scholarships had to pay the difference incurred by the fee, they would still be getting a better deal compared to other state universities.
At Penn State, for example, tuition for a full-time, in-state freshman taking 15 credit hours would cost roughly $6,000.
"It's an extraordinary deal people get here," Orlando said.
Orlando said he doesn't think the fee would dampen UF's appeal to potential students.
"Frankly, we have way, way, way more applications than we have openings," he said.