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Block tuition becomes topic of discussion on and off campus

A proposal by the Florida Board of Governors to implement block tuition for all of the state’s public universities could change the way students are charged tuition each semester.

The board meets Wednesday to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a plan that some have labeled as unfair since students would either benefit or be cheated by an inflexible tuition rate.

According to the Miami Herald, the fee would charge all full-time students in Florida’s 11 public universities the same tuition rate, regardless of the number of credit hours they take each semester. Students who take 12, 15 or 18 credit hours per semester would all pay the equivalent of 15 credit hours.

If the fee increase passed, schools would have the option to either request to make the switch and adopt block tuition, according to the Herald, or they could opt to keep the current per-credit pricing.

Jacqui Cash, university communications and marketing officer, said the fee is still merely a proposal that board members hope to discuss at their meeting.

“If it even happens, this would not take place any time soon and would first be implemented at the (University of Florida),” she said. “They hope to discuss it more (at the meeting), but (USF) students don’t need to think too much about it now.”

However, Joseph Anastasio, Student Government (SG) director of University and Community Affairs, said the University of Florida is

“the one pushing to get” the block tuition fee for its students.

“They have a different demographic of students (than USF does),” Anastasio said. “And (the fee) could be implemented as early as fall 2011 (for UF’s students).”

Anastasio served on a committee formed to research the block tuition fee plan with USF administrators. They wanted to gather student feedback through a survey to learn how the plan would affect the University both positively and negatively, and also if it would give students an incentive to graduate earlier and help improve the current trend that sees 50 percent of USF students graduating within six years.

“Students under this proposal would be paying for 15 credit hours,” he said. “It would only affect full-time students, and the logic is that if a student is paying for 15 credit hours, then they might as well take the classes that they are paying for.”

SG distributed the surveys to 393 students on paper ballots. They were asked to indicate whether they would support the fee and if they would be encouraged to take more classes if it was adopted by the University.

According to the survey, 251 of the 393 students said they would not support this new system while the other 142 said they would support it. Of those same students, 226 also said they would not feel encouraged to take more classes, while 167 said they would take them.

“As a representative on the committee, it was my job to (gather) student responses and, when everyone else saw the results, it definitely made them take a step back,” Anastasio said. “If you look at the answers on the surveys, there is a clear majority that says ‘no’ to this change. Some of the responses are very expressive.”

Luke Anderson, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, said he wouldn’t back a proposed change in tuition fees.

“Some students have jobs or families they take care of. There’s a reason why they’re only taking 12 credit hours,” Anderson said. “If they pay for five classes, they’re going to want to take all of them, but may not have time to actually do well in them.”

However, Spundan Dave, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences, belongs to the minority of students who responded to the survey in support of the proposed fee plan.

“(It would be) helpful for the students because it could cut down on tuition depending on how many credit hours you’re taking,” Dave said. “If you’re maxing out at 18 per semester, then it is an incentive.”