By Troy Miller
Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, Florida College Access Network

For Florida students and parents anticipating the start of a new academic year, facing the tuition bill has been the source of unwelcome surprises for many in recent years.

While it’s true the cost of college has never been higher, the rate at which we’ve seen tuition rise in the past has slowed down considerably.  In fact, tuition and fees at the state’s public universities are only up 1.4% this year compared to last, the slowest increase since the 1995-96 academic year.  The marginal increase for 2013 is likely a welcome change for students and families who have endured tuition increases in excess of 45% over the last five years.  Students taking 30 credits over the course of the year will only be paying about $86 more for tuition and fees than they did last year, depending on the university they are attending.

The minimal increase for the coming academic year comes on the heels of some heated debates this past legislative session regarding public higher education.  Although Governor Rick Scott vetoed a 3% increase proposed by most of the state’s university presidents last May, a law requiring tuition to keep up with the rate of inflation established the 1.7% bump for the year. Universities vary slightly on the actual amount students pay because of fees students pay in addition to tuition such as student financial aid fees, building fees, athletic fees, technology fees and tuition differential fees, which can add from $1 to $40 or more per credit hour taken depending on the campus. This of course doesn’t include expenses like housing, dining, textbooks and other costs many students, especially those living on-campus, are expected to pay while attending college.

Click image below to expand chart.

Tuition at Florida’s public universities is still quite low compared to other states in the country and stands to stay that way for the upcoming academic year. But does that mean it’s affordable?

New data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center shows eight public, 4-year degree-granting institutions from Florida listed as colleges with the bottom 10% of net prices in the nation (tied for the most with Texas). Interestingly enough, each of the eight institutions are representatives of the Florida College System (FCS), not the State University System of Florida. Now that most FCS institutions offer at least one 4-year degree, students in Florida have increasingly more cost effective options for pursuing a baccalaureate degree to choose from.

Turtle graduation cake photo courtesy of Fred’s Bakery.

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