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College students may face 3.2 percent tuition increase

College and university students who thought they wouldn't be getting a tuition increase next year might want to brace themselves.

At a meeting between House and Senate budget negotiators Thursday, a difference of philosophy emerged that could cost students a 3.2 percent boost in tuition.

Last year, the Legislature agreed to let the Board of Regents impose tuition increases of up to 10 percent a year to get students to pay one-fourth the cost of their education.

In December, calculations showed that it would take a 3.2 percent tuition increase to reach the 25 percent figure, Chancellor Charles Reed said.

Now the students are saying that further cuts have so eroded public financing for education, they shouldn't have to cough up any more for tuition to reach their portion.

The increase would be about $20 a year for a Florida resident who's an undergraduate student at a university, and would raise $11-million at the universities and $18-million at the community colleges.

But students say that if they pay that additional amount they'll be above their 25 percent, setting an uncomfortable precedent, according to Scott Jenkins, executive director of the Florida Student Association.

House Speaker T.

K. Wetherell concurs, and told his budget negotiators not to agree to any tuition increase, said Rep. Jim King, R-Jacksonville.

But Senate negotiators are taking a different view _ that students should pay the 3.2 percent increase. "We should let the law work," said Sen. Bob Johnson, R-Sarasota, a Senate budget negotiator.

"Florida is still 47th in in-state tuition, and 35th in out-of-state tuition. That means that in 35 states, it's cheaper to send your kid to Florida for an education than to keep him at home."

Reed said he won't know until the budget passes whether students will have a tuition increase.

"It's a moving target. So let's all be cool and see where we end up," he said.