BOG to consider tuition hike for some students

A proposal that would increase tuition by 25 percent for students who have exceeded the required credit hours for their major by 110 percent is just one of a number of controversial proposals state education officials will consider today.

In a meeting at New College in Sarasota today, the Board of Governors will present proposals that would radically change how Florida universities levy tuition.

In addition to the surcharge, the board will consider allowing universities to charge different tuition rates for different degree programs up to a limit set by the board; giving universities full discretion to set tuition rates for out-of-state, non-degree seeking and graduate students; charging a flat rate for fall and spring semesters based on 15 credit hours for any student taking nine or more credit hours; and imposing a $100 per class fee for students who drop more than one class per year.

If implemented, the surcharge could be particularly costly for students who change majors or those who take double majors or minors. For a degree requiring 120 credit hours, the surcharge would be applied to any classes taken once a student has reached 132 hours. With the surcharge, a three-credit-hour class would increase from $309.27 to $386.58 based on 2004/05 tuition rates.

“That’s going to definitely hurt our students,” said USF student body President Bijal Chhadva. “You don’t want students transferring to other schools just because they’ve reached the 132 mark.”

Chhadva said the policy runs counter to the philosophy of a college education.

“We come to university for an education; if there’s a class I want to take to enhance my learning, I should not be penalized for that,” he said.

The proposals are the latest in a line of policies the board has produced to make Florida’s universities more efficient and to adhere to the state legislature’s demand that universities become more accountable. In January, board member Steve Uhlfelder proposed that a form of standardized testing be introduced at state universities, a measure roundly criticized by universities and faculty groups. This year Uhlfelder also recommended universities better utilize classrooms on Fridays and Saturdays by offering incentives to students taking classes on those days.

According to the board’s proposal, changes to the levying of tuition would give universities greater autonomy. USF provost Renu Khator said the university welcomed the flexibility some of the proposals offered but said she opposes the surcharge since many students arrive at USF unsure about what major they will pursue.

“Students should be allowed to explore different fields and more disciplines, and change majors,” said Khator. “It’s really not a bad thing if students want to have more knowledge and take more courses.”

The board first mooted the idea of a 15-credit-hour flat rate in March as an incentive for students to increase their study load, thereby increasing the number of students graduating within four years.

Khator said the proposal made sense for traditional residential universities but not for commuter schools such as USF where a higher percentage of students study part-time. The proposals do not exempt part-time students from having to pay the 15-credit hour flat rate.

“We take pride in serving our community,” she said. “We want to provide access to students who want to come to the university and take a few courses.”

According to Chhadva, the Board of Trustees has discussed an alternative system in which students taking below 14 credit hours pay per credit hour while those taking between 14 and 18 credit hours would be charged for 14 hours. Chhadva also criticized the proposed penalty for students dropping more than one class in a single academic year.

“Something might come up in (a students’) personal life regarding family or finance and they have to drop a class,” he said. “They should not be penalized an additional $100 dollars. It’s not as if they’re getting their money back.”

The board’s proposal to allow universities to charge different tuition rates for different programs could mean equipment-intensive programs, such as engineering, would cost students more than programs using traditional classroom teaching, such as art and science degrees.

“It will radically change the behavior of students and of universities if this tuition proposal moves forward,” Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox said.

At tomorrow’s meeting the board will also vote on a proposal that links 10 percent of universities’ state funding to performance, most likely measured by “academic learning compacts,” a measure to show that students have skills and knowledge relevant to their major.