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Chhadva: students lack sufficient representation

When Florida’s Board of Governors voted Thursday to recommend six tuition proposals, including new block tuition rates for the states 11 public universities, it went against the urges of the Board’s only student representative.

Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts said the goal was to “move students through the system,” disregarding Florida State University student body President Jarrett Eady’s insistence that the proposals would be detrimental to many students.

USF Student Body President Bijal Chhadva, who attended the meeting, felt the voice of Florida students did not carry enough weight.

“We’re definitely not fairly represented. With one (student) against everyone else, clearly it’s not even,” he said. “It’s not complete representation, however, it is better than it was before 2001 (when the state education system was reorganized).”

The proposed block tuition rates would charge students taking a minimum number of credits, set by the universities between 9 and 12 credit hours, as if they were taking 15 hours, even if they take a different amount. Eady, the only person to vote against the proposal, said the proposal would be a problem for students already struggling financially to stay in school.

Roberts responded by pointing out other states have experienced some success with similar plans, but Chhadva wasn’t satisfied.

“The BOG said that North Carolina has a system with similar rules, but that’s one state,” he said. “Compare us to other systems that we aspire to be like. What about the Ivy League schools? What about the top universities in the country?”

Chhadva also said the proposal takes too much flexibility in making schedules away from students.

“That flexibility should be offered to the student,” he said. “Especially when the economy is down and some students cannot afford to go to school full-time.”

Chhadva also argued block tuition could have an adverse effect, forcing students to cut back on classes, paying only for what they have to take, which he said would slow down graduation rates.

Also at the meeting was Jamal Sowell, student body president at University of Florida. Sowell said Eady’s speech against the proposition made valid points, but said he believes the proposal will not go into effect.

“(We) set the legislative agenda for the (Florida Student Association) to oppose block tuition,” Sowell said. “His points were valid. Students want to pay for what they’re taking and not for more. (Eady) represented (the association) very well.”

He also said that, although the BOG approved the proposal, it does not mean the change in tuition rates will pass.

“The BOG is made by the governor, and the initiative is from the governor, but that doesn’t mean it will be implemented,” Sowell said.

Still, Chhadva said he hopes the proposition will not go into effect.

“I hope citizens of Florida will stand up to the plate,” he said. “It’s not just about us. It’s about the future. It’s about the future of education. We need to look ahead into the next five or 10 years.”

Chhadva said he hopes citizens talk to their local representatives of the state house and senate, both those in office and those running this election, to prevent the proposal from going into effect.

“All our legislators have contact info on their Web sites; the opportunity to get involved is definitely there,” he said.

Adam Becker contributed to this report.