The Florida Board of Education announced recently that students and employees in state universities who are called into military service will have full monetary support, which includes tuition and fee refunds.
Board Secretary Jim Horne said in a press statement it is important that the board does its part in wake of the national tragedy.
“At this time of national emergency it is imperative that we provide full support for those students and personnel in our education system who are called upon to serve our country in the military or who are otherwise adversely affected by this national tragedy,” he said.
Horne said in addition to refunds, the new policy will allow students to retake incomplete courses without penalty.
“There are many among us – we don’t know who will be called up. This policy is reflective of the students we serve,” he said. “We will assure that no student will suffer academic or financial penalties in our education system by virtue of being called to serve our country in the military service.”
The new policy is intended to allow students to serve without having to worry about lost money and effects on family members. Senior Valerie Sheets, Army ROTC cadet, said the support given to the military is needed.
“That’s good that the state is going to be supportive like that,” she said. “(It’s good that students called up) don’t have to worry about student bills.”
Sheets said it’s wonderful to see the Board of Education do their part.
“Everything is kind of being put on hold,” Sheets said. “The support for America is at an all-time high.”
The direct impact on students who meet the criteria will be seen in a new set of rules that affect both registration and financial aid. University Registrar Angela DeBose said the new policies at USF will be similar to those at other state universities. She said the registrar’s office will make the process easy for affected students.
“I think at USF we have a student-friendly policy,” she said. “The student need only to drop and request for fee adjustment.”DeBose said students who must depart for military service in the middle of a semester will receive a WC grade, which means withdrawing due to exceptional circumstances.
“That’s consistent with what’s being done throughout the state in order to recognize these unique and difficult circumstances,” she said.
As far as tuition fees, DeBose said if students turn in the proper forms, they will not be fee liable.
“(Fees) would be refunded 100 percent,” she said. “We should have a student-friendly process for those that are called to serve.”In addition to tuition, many students have substantial student loans that would be affected by a mid-term departure. Leonard Gude, director for the Office of Financial Aid, said a new list of rules for students who have loans and are called to duty has been created.
“We’ll still have to process them if they receive financial aid,” he said. “The grant funds would not have to be paid by (military) students.”
Gude said if any student withdraws before 60 percent of a semester is complete, part of the loan the student received would have to be repaid in a prorated plan. He said under the new rules, the university is not required to collect funds from a student called to service.
“In the past they would have had to repay the funds,” Gude said. “This was an exception the department just put into place.”Gude said updated rules from the office of financial aid are now available on the new University Cares Web page. A link to this site is located on the USF home page.
Gude said he believes the Board made a good decision in response to the tragedy.
He said a call to military service financially impacts not only the student but also the student’s family.
“Sometimes these families are looking at a decrease in income as they move from private jobs into military service,” he said. “We don’t need to burden them with additional debt at this time.”