Florida college students heading to school this fall will pay 15 percent more for tuition after the university system's Board of Governor's approved the hike Friday.
The tuition increase will affect students at all 11 public universities, bringing tuition more in line with the national average.
The 15 percent increase is the highest allowable under state law. The Legislature had already approved an 8 percent tuition increase, but the board tacked on an additional 7 percent at the request of the individual universities.
At their meeting Friday in Orlando, board members weighed the economic challenges that families face today against the financial needs of the universities.
"We're using the money not to move the ships forward but just to keep the ships afloat," board member Dean Colson said. "I know we need this money, and I know we're underpriced."
Some students, however, aren't buying it.
"It's ridiculous," said Krystal Olivieri, 18, of Bradenton, who will be a freshman at the University of South Florida. "The economy is so bad."
Olivieri said she plans to pay for school with the help of a Bright Futures scholarship and prepaid tuition. But her parents are talking to her about taking out loans to cover the rest.
"An increase, especially 15 percent, is unfair," said David Jewett, 18, who will be attending USF's honors program in the fall.
Jewett, who was the salutatorian of Largo High School's graduating class this year, is one of six children in his family. He said the added cost will be a strain on his parents.
"If it wasn't for scholarships, I probably wouldn't be able to attend," he said.
Board member Norman Tripp voted against any increase, reasoning that inflation in higher education has outpaced that "of the rest of the world," he said.
"I don't think there has been an honest conversation that would make me feel better that I could defend to parents and children who are going to have to pay this tuition," he said. "I feel like I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't."
But other officials contend that, compared with those in the rest of the country, Florida's universities are still a deal.
Tuition for state residents at Florida's public universities averaged $4,382 in the 2009-2010 academic year, compared with the national average of $7,020.
Students in the upcoming school year will see different tuition and fee increases depending on which university they attend.
On the low end, Florida Gulf Coast University students will see a $463 increase in total tuition and fees per year. On the high end, University of South Florida-Polytechnic campus students will see a $991 increase.
"In return, what our students on the Polytechnic campus will receive in the coming year is a significantly enhanced student activity program," USF provost Ralph Wilcox said. "Everything from improvement in counseling centers (to) recreational activities."
Information from the Associated Press and the News Service of Florida was used in this report.