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Excess credit hour surcharge impedes student success

The Florida Legislature passed a bill in 2009 that puts a surcharge on students who exceed the required number of credit hours necessary to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from a public university.

The Legislature advertised the initiative as a policy that encourages “efficiency,” but it is clear the Legislature was looking out for the best interest of the state, not  students.

These charges ignore the complexities of navigating through the university system in favor of a solution that ultimately causes more problems for students than it fixes for the state budget.

Ramon Jimenez, a student at the University of Central Florida, started a petition in August to amend the statute. 

Students who complete their associate degree prior to enrolling in a Florida university will have the credit hours they’ve already taken roll over to their new school. 

Like Jimenez, many college students find that after entering a university, it will be impossible for them to graduate without going over the limit. This can be extremely costly for these students given that Florida statutes now require students entering a university this year to pay double tuition after exceeding the credit hour cap.

With tuition at USF already costing more than $3,000 per semester, not including cost of living, many students may find it impractical if not impossible to pay their way through school without taking on loan debt.

The excess credit hour surcharge also discourages students from taking on multiple majors and minors or enrolling in an honors college program, simply because they don’t want to run the risk of exceeding the cap.

No student should have to sacrifice classes and programs that may help them succeed in their chosen career out of fear that they may be billed into debt by the university whose primary mission should be helping them succeed.

Moreover, excess credit hour taking drives up the cost of higher education to the public and drains recources needed by incoming students.

The cost of fixing the problem, however, shouldn’t come from students, because the State University System was looking for the easiest way out.

In a study from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, researchers pointed out that universities themselves sometimes make excess credits inevitable with coursework that is not easily transferred between different universities, unclear degree requirements and poor access to required courses.

Rather than shifting the burden of excess credit hours to students or, more accurately, the federal government and private lenders, the state should ask public universities to work toward making it easier for students to graduate on time.

Initiatives such as increasing access to knowledgeable academic advisers, offering more seats and professors for required courses and offering more interdisciplinary courses that would satisfy degree requirements while also allowing students to branch out from a restrictive degree track and explore topics outside their majors.

While it may not be the simple solution politicians look for, smart policies aimed at making it easier for students to graduate on time are more beneficial to both parties, rather than saving a quick buck at the cost of a good, reasonably priced education.