Governor Jeb Bush must think he’s a “real man of genius” by proposing a block-tuition for Florida’s 11 public universities. He wants to charge students a flat rate, equivalent to a 15-credit hour course load, regardless of the number of credits a student registers. The real man of genius says this will give students an incentive to graduate on time.
So here’s to you Mr. block-tuition-planning governor who thinks his proposal will benefit students of higher education:
While you’d like to think your proposal will reduce enrollment time for students as they earn degrees, that’s not always the case. It’s not that students want to stay longer than four years, but there are restrictions and requirements in the university system.
Freshmen may outline a four-year course load fitting to their majors, but students aren’t guaranteed their plans will go accordingly because most classes are limited.
Universities are encouraged to increase enrollment each year, but the classes offered remain relatively the same. Don’t forget it’s the budget cuts coming from your House that has required the University of South Florida to cut back on classes during the summer semesters.
Anyone in the School of Mass Communications knows about the “cattle herd.” Students line the hallway so they can get permits for the classes required for graduation, but not all students go home happy. If a student can’t get into a specific class then his or her graduation date is prolonged; this is true in any college because there are prerequisites to be met.
So not only are students penalized under your budget that limits the number of classes offered and professors hired at USF, but you are asking them to pay more money for less classes that aren’t available to them in the first place.
What about the College of Engineering, where a major such as chemical engineering is a five-year program? Students in their senior year are given the option to take graduate courses so they can receive their master’s degree by the end of the fifth year. But according to your plan, they need to be out of there in four years. Well Mr. Bush, when courses like Physical Chemistry III and Advanced Thermo are required, you can’t just shove a student out the door.
Let’s not forget our students are asked that they get a “well-rounded” education by the time they graduate. USF requires students to take 45 hours of liberal arts. Most majors require at least 120 hours, so a student would have to take 15 credits minimum each semester to graduate in four years. Many students could probably tell you that time conflicts often occur. Not to mention most students work either part-time or full-time if they have to pay for their ever-increasing tuition. To avoid failing a class and having to repay for the course, a student may choose to take less credits to keep up with coursework and bills. Again, under block tuition the student is penalized, and they are asked to pay more for less.
In education, students should receive the most for their money. A student could get a deal with your block tuition plan if he or she takes the maximum 18 credits a semester while paying for 15, but paying for an education shouldn’t be like haggling at a flea market.
Florida’s universities responded to your proposal and it was posted March 12 on myflorida.com. Those who supported you were Florida International University, University of North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, New College of Florida and the University of West Florida. But even with these approvals, all except FIU followed their approvals with the words “as long as” or “if.”
USF suggested if you are going to implement the block tuition you should at least eliminate the requirement that students attend nine credits during summer semesters. As USF Board of Trustees chairman Dick Beard stated in a letter dated Feb. 25: “Different campuses will face different demands that would require local discretion within the bounds of any adopted policy.” In addition, the University of Florida suggested that the BOT “should determine the local fees to be paid under the block fee policy.”
After all, wasn’t that what you created the Board of Trustees for, so that each could monitor the needs at each university and make decisions accordingly?
Grace Agostin is a senior majoring in mass communications.