ST. PETERSBURG — The University of South Florida community had a winning year in the Florida Legislature, making back some of the money it had lost and enjoying Gov. Rick Scott's veto of a tuition increase. Students are happy. Administrators are happy.
But USF officials said Thursday that in order to continue to compete with the state's top public research universities, the school still needs to recoup money lost over years of state cuts — its resources stretched by climbing enrollment and higher research costs. That money has to come from somewhere, they said.
USF's Board of Trustees voted Thursday to raise fees for students coming to the school from outside Florida. Tuition will remain the same. For the coming academic year, fees will increase by:
• 10 percent for out-of-state undergraduates at USF.
• 5 percent for out-of-state graduate students, and out-of-state students seeking a doctorate in pharmacy.
• 3 percent for out-of-state students seeking a doctorate in physical therapy.
Last year, a nonresident undergraduate at USF's Tampa campus paid $16,257 in tuition and fees. Now that student will pay $17,304.
Nonresident graduate students paid $20,603. Now they will pay $21,156.
Without the increase, school leaders said, USF would lose ground to other universities. Government funding has been significantly lower for USF than for the University of Florida and Florida State. At the board's meeting at USF St. Petersburg Thursday, USF provost Ralph Wilcox presented a graph showing that degree attainment — including high-valued degrees in science, technology, engineering and math — had started to level off in the past two years.
"If ever there was any fat in the system, we are not only down to the muscle, we're down to the bone now," Wilcox said.
He said it's a fine line for USF between managing revenues and attracting students from around the world with affordable prices. Even with the new increases, USF has the lowest combined tuition and fees in Florida for nonresidents, priced below Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University for undergraduates and Florida International University for graduate students.
On the high end of the cost spectrum, the University of Florida charged $28,420 in 2012-13 for out-of-state undergrads — 75 percent more in tuition and fees than USF.
"The University of Florida has priced itself out of the market, quite frankly, at the undergraduate level," Wilcox said."
In-state tuition at Florida's public universities is among the lowest in the country but rose steadily in recent years. At USF in Tampa, undergraduate tuition for in-state students rose from $153 per credit hour in 2009 to $211 in 2012. The Legislature this year recommended a 3 percent state tuition increase, but Scott vetoed it.
"Even though we recognize that tuition increases have been pretty steep over the past five years, when one combines tuition revenues with the state appropriation losses, you can see that we are still realizing a net loss," Wilcox said.
In addition to the out-of-state fee increases, USF leaders have looked for other ways to make money or cut expenses.
For the coming year, the university has increased student activity, health and capital improvement fees at the request of student government leaders; made plans to keep meal and housing costs down; implemented affordable textbook programs at the bookstore and library; promoted a laptop and iPad loaner program in the library; and offered discounts at the USF computer store. And Thursday, board members approved the termination of 17 degree programs found to be redundant or unpopular.
"It's great news from our last legislative session, but our journey's not done," said board member Brian Lamb. "I think that's a little bit of a call to action as we look at this presentation. We've got to stay the course around a very open dialogue, with public officials telling the USF story."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3394.