TAMPA — The University of South Florida board of trustees made two big changes Thursday: raising tuition and requiring incoming freshman who live outside of the Tampa Bay area to reside on campus.
Trustees approved a "tuition differential" plan that allows USF to charge in-state undergraduates as much as 30 percent more than the base tuition rate, as long as tuition doesn't increase more than 15 percent in any one year.
The base tuition rate is currently $73.71 per credit hour, or $2,211 annually for a full-time student taking 30 credits a year. Under the differential tuition plan, which takes effect this fall, students would be charged $84.76 per credit hour next year, or about $2,543 a year for a full-time student. That's a 15 percent increase.
The hike will be applied only to courses on the Tampa campus.
Trustee Jan E. Smith asked that the Sarasota-Manatee campus be included in the tuition increase, saying it could mean almost half-a-million additional dollars in revenue over four years. But other trustees argued that the intent of the hike was to benefit research institutions, and that USF's satellite campuses were not included in the study when determining the hike.
USF's other campuses "play an important role for the community at large," said Dr. Kiran Patel, who sits on the board. "(But) everybody cannot afford the higher fees we want to charge."
In June, Gov. Charlie Crist signed the differential tuition bill, which allows Florida's three top research universities to charge more in undergraduate tuition than their state peers. It allows USF to charge as much as 30 percent more than the base tuition rate, and the University of Florida and Florida State University to charge up to 40 percent above the base rate. UF and FSU also plan to implement differential tuition beginning this fall.
In voicing support for the bill, university presidents said their tuition would reflect their different teaching missions, a model used in several states like North Carolina, Texas and California.
The increase at USF would be applied to all students who enrolled in fall 2007 and thereafter, students not seeking degrees and those who enrolled prior to fall 2007 who did not maintain continuous enrollment.
Families who already have contracts under the Florida Prepaid tuition program would be exempt, and Prepaid can start selling new contracts to cover the higher tuition for future families. Financially needy students won't have to pay the higher rate. Recipients of the state's Bright Futures scholarship program would have to pay the difference between the base tuition and the higher rate.
If universities were to charge the maximum under the plan, each stands to bring in between $18-million and $26.5-million more in annual revenue once the plan is fully implemented.
The board's other significant move Thursday requires freshmen who live outside of Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties to reside in on-campus university housing beginning in fall 2009.
The requirement is part of ongoing effort to shed USF's "commuter school" label and create a more traditional college experience.
Those who are at least 21 years old before their first day of class during their first term of enrollment are exempt. Students who live with their parents or guardians in the Tampa Bay area must apply for exemption and provide a parent's endorsement.