Click to read about the best places to eat on campus, freshman packing tips, and how to keep in touch with friends.

Pre-college credits may be a money-saving avenue

Students like Theresa Woods who enrolled at USF with accelerated high school credits may be able to avoid the new excess hours surcharge while also graduating faster.

According to a release, 1,640 of the newly-enrolled First Time In College (FTIC) students this fall had an average of eight AP credits each, and 212 students each had an average of 26 International Baccalaureate (IB) credits.

Last year, 1,471 FTIC students had an average of 10.43 AP credits each and 204 students had an average of 25.15 IB credits each.

Woods, an English literature major, is in her second semester at USF, but is already halfway through her junior year because she entered college with 60 AP credits.

“I knew it would free up more time and it gave me a little wiggle room,” Woods said.

The excess hours surcharge, enacted on May 27 by the state legislature, mandates students who exceed their degree program’s credit requirements by 20 percent or more to pay a surcharge equal to 50 percent of the tuition rate for each excess hour.

Credits earned through AP, IB or dual enrollment courses are not counted under the excess hours surcharge, said Robert Sullins, dean of Undergraduate Studies.

“That makes it easier for students to complete a double major or a minor without having to pay extra for it,” he said.

Students are allowed to use 45 AP credits when enrolling in the University, but there is no limit on dual enrollment courses, Sullins said.

According to the College Board Web site, the number of Florida high school students taking AP credits increased from 25.6 percent in 2003 to 34 percent in 2008.

Ben Stevens, who is majoring in computer science, took AP courses in high school. Though classified as a junior, he is only in his second year of college.

“(AP credits) benefit me, because I can get more (graduate level) credits out of the way while still under the Bright Futures scholarship,” Stevens said.

Bright Futures does not pay tuition for students who are classified as graduates, according to the scholarship Web site.

“I can get a head start on some classes to use toward my masters,” Stevens said.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield said the University also benefits from students taking accelerated courses.

“Students graduate more quickly and may finish their baccalaureate degree in three years, then stay on and do a masters,” he said.

Besterfield said if students can complete their undergraduate degree more quickly, they tend to be more apt to continue on to graduate school.