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Proposed tuition increases creep higher

College students and parents: Hold on to your pocketbooks.

The numbers are growing as the Legislature talks about raising tuition at public universities for the second year in a row.

Key senators said Wednesday that they're considering a tuition increase of 10 percent, higher than Gov. Lawton Chiles' recommendation of about 8 percent. With a 10 percent increase, part _ perhaps 2.5-percent _ should go toward financial aid for needy students, said state Sen. Don Sullivan, R-Seminole, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

The Board of Regents that oversees the state university system has recommended a 10 percent increase. "We're only talking about a few more dollars" over the governor's recommendation, said Senate President Toni Jennings, who brought senators together Wednesday for a lunch meeting on budget issues.

House Speaker Dan Webster was open to the 10 percent increase as well. "I'm willing to discuss it," he said Wednesday.

Florida's college students pay one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, and regents have been pushing to raise tuition to at least the national average. Chiles wants students to pay at least 25 percent of the cost of their instruction _ a goal that his recommendation would achieve.

Last spring, lawmakers approved a 7 percent tuition increase that went into effect this academic year. Tuition is $40.75 a credit hour for undergraduate students who are Florida residents. That figure doesn't include various fees tacked on to student bills.

Regents also have been pushing for a "technology fee" to cover computers, Internet access and other needs.

A House committee approved a bill Tuesday that would allow such a fee _ up to $50 per semester for each full-time student. The bill also would add about $3.5-million more for poor students by devoting a bigger percentage of a financial aid fee to need-based scholarships.

But the reaction to the technology fee was lukewarm to cold Wednesday among senators who either didn't want to give universities more money or didn't trust them to spend it exclusively on technology.

"My sense is there's an awful lot of resistance,", Sullivan said.

_ Staff writer T. Christian Miller contributed to this report.