EDITORIAL: Block tuition benefits institutions, not students

University of Florida president Bernie Machen is pushing to change the university’s per-credit-hour tuition system to a flat tuition rate, the Gainesville Sun reported Sunday. The flat rate, also known as block tuition, would charge all full-time students the same amount regardless of how many credit hours they take.

While block tuition would benefit UF, it is unfair to students and emphasizes speedy graduation rather than quality education and strong academic performance.

Machen asserted that block tuition would encourage students to enroll in more classes per semester, thus increasing the number of four-year graduates. That would make the school look better nationally and open up spots for new students – a welcome result, as UF announced in May that it is cutting admission by 4,000 students in response to statewide budget cuts.

Additionally, block tuition has proved to be an effective means of getting students to graduate faster. Only one institution listed in the U.S. News & World Report top 25 public institutions does not use a flat tuition rate: UF. University officials who have recently adopted the flat rate, including Bruce Edwards, executive associate vice president for finance at Texas A&M University, are praising the results.

However, these institutional benefits do not negate the fact that block tuition unjustly benefits a small number of students and robs the majority of their money.

Full-time tuition encompasses anywhere from 12 to 18 credit hours – more in special circumstances. In order for UF to benefit from block tuition, the flat rate must be set at more than 12 credit hours – otherwise, the school will lose money. Essentially, students taking 12 credit hours will be paying for classes in which they are not enrolled. If the flat rate were set at 15 credit hours, for instance, students taking 18 or more would save money by not having to pay for their extra hours.

The goal of block tuition is to capitalize on this inherent unfairness by making students who would normally take 12 hours want to enroll in more classes to avoid paying the inflated rate. For students with responsibilities outside of school like jobs or family obligations, the choice becomes a difficult one: Do I waste money on tuition, or do I potentially overextend myself at the expense of my well-being and academic performance?

Increasing the number of students graduating from college in four years is great. But churning out graduates by using a faulty tuition system with no consideration of how increased course loads affect academic performance is a disservice to students. At least UF will look good, though.