Florida Governor Supports Tuition Hike

Charlie Crist has opposed a hike in the past, but the state's economy has put higher education in a bind.

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has loosened his opposition to raising tuition rates in the state's public universities, offering a route to relief for a higher education system struggling under severe budget deficits, the Associated Press reports. Crist's plan proposes increases of up to 15 percent a year at all state schools, quite a turnaround from just last year, when Crist vetoed a 5 percent tuition increase for all schools, arguing it put too much financial burden on students and families.

Now, however, "things evolved," Crist said at a press conference, as a worsening state economy has forced the Legislature to dramatically cut funding to higher education. In late 2007, Crist OK'd a 15 percent tuition hike for three schools, then early this year, for two more institutions. This week's proposal would allow all 11 universities to raise tuition.

The costs of going to state schools in the Sunshine State, such as the University of Florida or Florida State University , are some of the nation's lowest, averaging $3,808 a year for full-time, in-state undergraduates. The national average is $6,585.

If all universities impose the full 15 percent, it would generate $72 million a year. Under the plan, 30 percent of those funds would go to financial aid, with the rest being used to recruit and retain faculty.