Tuition Differential Fee a Big Chunk of College Bill - NBC 6 South Florida
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Tuition Differential Fee a Big Chunk of College Bill

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    Tuition Differential Fee a Big Chunk of College Bill

    With the fall semester in full swing at universities across the state, many parents and students are anticipating tuition bills. NBC 6's Sasha Jones reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018)

    With the fall semester in full swing at universities across the state, many parents and students are anticipating tuition bills.

    Florida's public university system remains one of the cheapest in the nation when it comes to in-state tuition and fees.

    But some may be surprised to find out how much of the bill is made up of fees.

    According to the State University System of Florida Board of Governors, the average fee for a resident undergraduate taking 30 credit hours a year is $2,953.

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    Those fees are nearly as much as the average cost of tuition at $3,099.66 for a resident undergraduate.

    Currently, students at public universities pay fees that go toward athletics, healthcare, transportation, technology, capital improvement, and financial aid.

    But there's also a fee called a tuition differential that was enacted in 2007.

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    The tuition differential is something public universities can charge and decide how to use.

    According to state statute, 70 percent of the money goes toward increasing course offerings, graduation rates, along with other expenditures. While 30 percent of the money from the tuition differential should be used to provide need-based financial aid.

    In 2017, those fees brought in about $258 million statewide.

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    Undergrads at Florida International University are charged $52 per credit hour for this tuition differential which is the highest among universities in Florida.

    The fee brought in $48,219,624 to FIU during the 2016-2017 school year.

    A representative from FIU told us the money will go toward student financial aid, undergraduate faculty hires, faculty retention, supporting academic success through enhanced pedagogy, and other initiatives.

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    The tuition differential fee has held steady at the current rate since 2014. The Tuition Differential fee can be waived if the student is the beneficiary of prepaid tuition contracts which were in effect on July 1, 2007, or if the student meets the eligibility requirements for the Florida public student assistance grant.

    FIU students we spoke to said they don't mind the fees if the money is put to good use.

    "I'm a part of homecoming, so I know that without those fees, we wouldn't be funded and we wouldn't have the money to provide the concert or provide the pageant," said Marianne Ostos.

    "We need new computers. We can't use Windows 98. We will be lost in the dark ages," said Jefferson Noel.

    State Representative Shevrin Jones serves on the Education Committee for Florida's House of Representatives.

    He believes fees impact low-income students the most.

    "This is one of the reasons why we have so many students who move away from going into college because of these fees," Rep. Jones said.

    It's why last year he sponsored HB 181 to create the "Florida Sunshine Scholarship Program." The bill would have covered 100 percent of tuition and fees for Florida residents with an annual household income of $125,000 or less.

    "We can't just throw that out and say that is chump change to someone. Someone is paying that bill where that can stay in their pocket if need be," Jones told us.

    His bill did not pass but he told us he will try again next year to help more students afford the cost of an education including the fees.

    A representative from FIU told us about 60 percent of their undergraduate students receive Pell Grants and almost half of the freshman class qualified for the Bright Future scholarship. Both programs help to lower the amount students pay in tuition and fees.

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