As universities deal with millions in state budget cuts, administrators are looking to tuition and fees to make up the difference. This fall, students should expect to pay up to 15 percent more in tuition than last year, along with a first-time technology fee and other fee hikes. Tuition at most state universities will average $4,200 this fall, up about $500 from last year. That doesn’t include increases in housing and meal plans, parking permits and other charges.
These higher costs come as universities cut their staffs, courses and services. Budget woes also have led to larger classes, enrollment caps and the loss of top faculty to other states. Last year, the Legislature initially gave five universities authority to charge “differential tuition,” an amount above the base rate.
The new law caps increase at 15 percent a year until Florida’s university tuition reaches the national average, about $6,585. Still, Florida tuition remains cheaper than the national average, according to the College Board.
However, cheap tuition for in-state students does little to comfort those who are classified as out of state students. Many of these students are paying a great deal money in order to attend FAMU, and other state institutions. Since arriving at Florida A&M University I’ve had many friends who talk about getting in-state tuition. However, that process has got even more difficult as of July 1, 2009.
Under new state laws, students are facing more stringent requirements in order to get reclassified. Most complain that the process laid out by each institution did not give ample notice to those attempting to meet those standards.
Also of concern is the fact, that many of the students who applied, were students enrolled before these new laws and they were “grandfathered” into the process. Why is this a problem? One of the new requirements is that you must own a house, one year prior to enrollment. For instance, if you enrolled in the fall of 2006 and have been attempting to get in-state tuition since that time, with new mandates in place, you’ll never qualify unless you go back to high school and try it all over again.
In all fairness, it is important to point out that the University does depend on those of out of state dollars. If FAMU, or any other institution in the State University System, allowed every single out of state student to be reclassified to in state there would be huge funding gaps, and we’re already facing difficult economic times.
But students don’t expect the University to solve all their problems, nor do they expect FAMU to have all the answers. However, they do expect a level playing field. It’s not too much to ask to give prior notice, and ensure students are informed about any change in protocol. I think that’s a reasonable request.
Vincent Evans is a fourth year political science student from Jacksonville. He can be reached at email@example.com